WASHINGTON — D.C. is experiencing an uptick in coronavirus cases as thousands of locals prepare to travel for the Christmas holiday in two weeks.
D.C. Health Data shows, through December 13, the daily case rate in the District per 100,000 people is 27.1 That figure is more than twice it was one month ago when the daily case rate was 11 cases per 100,000 people.
Fortunately, the hospitalization rate has decreased over the last month. Also, 64.1% of D.C. residents are now fully vaccinated.
Dr. Hana Akselrod, an infection disease physician with George Washington University Medical Faculty Associates, has been paying close attention to the recent spike in D.C.’s COVID numbers.
“The pattern is quite concerning,” she said. “We really have a few factors to thank for what we're seeing.”
Akselrod, who also serves as the GWU MFA lead for COVID-19 response, said while D.C.’s vaccination rate is higher than the national average, there are still many people in the District who are not vaccinated.
Also, she adds more breakthrough cases are happening amongst the community as well. A breakthrough case is when a person becomes infected with COVID despite being fully vaccinated for the disease. Usually, in such cases, patients are protected from the sort of severe or critical illness that would necessitate a hospital visit.
“As people get farther out in time from when they had their primary series of vaccines for COVID-19, we start to see more of what we call breakthrough cases,” she said.
Akselrod added, just like this time last year, more people are getting tested for COVID in advance of holiday travel.
D.C. is currently at a rate of high transmission of the virus, according to D.C. Health. The department’s data shows the latest case spike in the District started a few days before Thanksgiving.
D.C. reported its first 4 cases of the omicron variant on December 12.
Akselrod said doctors across the country are paying close attention to the variant’s spread abroad to get an idea as to how it might spread in America.
“We are also in a little bit of trepidation and worried about whether we're going to see the same pattern that's observed now in Europe, whereas omicron spreads, [and] people who were previously vaccinated may experience more and more breakthrough cases,” she said.
There are several things you can do to minimize your chances of contracting the delta or omicron variants this winter, according to Akselrod.
“We want to encourage, again, everyone to think about how to use every single tool at our disposal,” she said. “Masks, open windows, stepping outside with a fire pit, getting rapid tests, planning ahead, and maybe having two or three small gatherings rather than one gigantic one.”
Akselrod also says people who are fully vaccinated should get a booster shot.
On November 22, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and DC Health formally lifted the indoor mask mandate that had been in effect in the District. Since then, both the Mayor and D.C. Health announced that all people should wear masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status.
That advisory, however, did not require people to wear masks.
WUSA9 reached out to both the Mayor and D.C. Health to see if they have considered reinstating the mandate in light of the District’s recent COVID numbers but have yet to get a response.
Akselrod recommends locals continue to wear face coverings indoors.
“We truly want to use all available methods, all the experience of the past two years, to get our families and communities safely through the winter season,” she said.
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