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COVID Blog: It's a matter of when, not if, mutant strain comes to DC

DC Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt says mutant virus will spread to all 50 states, may already be in D.C. undetected.

WASHINGTON — It’s Wednesday, January 13, and with two cases of the UK variant now identified in the DMV, D.C.’s public health director says it’s a matter of if, not when, it spreads to the rest of the region.

“We are going to see this variant in all of the states and jurisdictions of this country,” Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt said during the city’s weekly coronavirus briefing Wednesday morning. “DC will be no exception to that. It’s possible that it is already here.”

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Tuesday that two cases of the variant virus had been identified in Anne Arundel County. The variant is more contagious, but not more likely to cause severe symptoms, according to health experts.

Meanwhile, the District is asking Operation Warp Speed to increase its allotment of vaccine doses after all 6,700 available vaccination appointments for the week were booked by Monday afternoon. The surge in demand comes as the city opened vaccination appointments to those over the age of 65 – which accounts for 86,000 individuals, or about 12% of D.C.’s population. To date, the city has administered at least the first shot to roughly 4.6% of its total population.

If you’re just here for the numbers, here’s how things look today:

  • D.C. reported 177 new cases and 6 new deaths from the coronavirus on Wednesday, down from its all-time high of 430 cases on Tuesday.
  • Maryland reported 2,516 new cases and 37 new deaths from the coronavirus on Wednesday. The state is now averaging nearly 40% more cases each day than two weeks ago.
  • Virginia reported 4,98 new cases and 75 new deaths from the coronavirus on Wednesday. The commonwealth is now averaging nearly 50 deaths a day from the virus.

How are things in the DMV?

I focus on lot on the movement of metrics like hospitalizations and case rate, but it’s worth taking a moment today to look at some of the metrics that haven’t moved at all. In D.C. specifically, the city has made almost no progress on a couple of its reopening metrics:

  • The number of new cases coming from quarantined contacts has been essentially flat at 10% since September. The city’s goal is 60%.
  • Similarly, the same number of people are providing close contact information in tracing interviews now as they were six months ago – roughly 43-44%. Even after six more months of the pandemic, and the highest case numbers ever, not even half of people D.C. contact tracers reach out to are willing to share close contact information.

In Maryland, the state is now publishing a new visualization offering a more detailed look at hospitalizations in the state. As of Wednesday, 90% of staffed beds in Maryland are now in use. Of those, 20% are taken up by acute coronavirus patients and another 6% by coronavirus ICU patients. That means 1-in-4 patients in Maryland hospitals are now positive for the coronavirus.