COVID rates in the District are declining faster than most other places in the nation, DC Health Director LaQuandra Nesbitt said at a press conference Thursday. But they’re still higher than they were at the peak of the Delta wave.
The Omicron wave swept through the District, peaking at more than 2000 weekly cases in late December 2021 and early January 2022. The Delta variant peaked at around 352 weekly cases in early January 2021, Nesbitt said.
But Nesbitt cautioned against using strictly numbers to assess the two situations. She said that research has shown that the severity of illness and case fatality rates during the Omicron surge are not as high as they were for the Delta variant.
The dominant danger of such a high number of cases, Nesbitt said, is the disruption to communities, even those that have high vaccination rates. Such a contagious disease forces people to isolate, whatever their symptoms or experience. That means societal function can be disrupted and critical services can be affected as government, grocery and health care workers get sick.
The week-to-week number of COVID and overall number of hospitalization rates have improved weekly, Nesbitt said, a hopeful sign. However, she said residents should still be taking precautions to keep pushing the numbers down.
“Winter months tend to be very difficult months for all respiratory viruses,” Nesbitt said, noting this is typical for influenza and childhood respiratory viruses like respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
“So we always have to take care during the winter months to do things that help to reduce the spread of those respiratory viruses,” she said. Those steps include hand-washing, staying home when sick, increasing indoor ventilation –and of course, getting the flu and COVID vaccines.
Nesbitt said if you have received either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, you should be boosted five months after the second dose; for Johnson and Johnson, it should be done “even sooner,” Nesbitt said. The CDC recommends those who have received the J&J vaccine get a booster shot two months later.
You can get boosted without an appointment at all of the Ward COVID Centers. The Ward 6 COVID Center (507 Eighth St. SE) opened Jan. 24. It is closed Tuesday.
At the COVID Centers, residents of any ward have access to vaccinations, boosters, take-home rapid antigen tests and masks (2 per resident) as well as a new walk-up testing opportunity that will allow residents to administer and register a PCR test themselves. Bring photo id or proof of District residency.
During the Jan. 27th press conference, Mayor Muriel Bowser also announced the Public Health Emergency would be extended until Feb. 15, largely to allow administrative support for hospitals. The indoor mask mandate has been extended until Feb. 28, tracking with the winter months District residents move social activity indoors, Bowser said. An extension of that mandate is possible, but will be assessed at a later date.