COVID-19 rates are slowly starting to rise in D.C., prompting health officials to use better ways in tracking COVID cases. (Courtesy Photo)

By Deborah Bailey,
AFRO D.C. Editor

As residents across the DMV start the Memorial Day holiday weekend, COVID-19 rates are slowly starting to climb in D.C. and in neighboring Prince George’s County. 

Though both locations have seen an uptick in cases, the two jurisdictions have moved in different directions regarding guidance over the increasing infection rates due to new strains of the virus. 

Current COVID-19 infection rates in the District of Columbia are at 447 cases per 100,000 residents. New hospitalizations because of COVID-19 are at a rate of 6.4 percent of overall new hospital admits, according to the Centers for Disease Control COVID-19 Tracker website. 

The current infection rate for the District constitutes a “medium” level rating according to the CDC site. In neighboring Prince George’s County, COVID-19 infection rates are also tracking at a medium level, according to the CDC site with 209.72 cases per 100,000 persons in the county. 

“COVID-19 cases have been steadily rising in Prince George’s County and the state over the last six weeks,” said Health Officer for Prince George’s County, Dr. Ernest Carter,  in a recent update for the media. 

Prince George’s County Health Department has reinstated voluntary masking in indoor settings as a result. Masking is still required in Prince George’s County schools, libraries and indoor health settings. 

Although the District is also tracking new COVID-19 cases at a “medium” level according to the CDC, the guidance from health officials has taken a different turn. 

COVID-19 tracking data is once again being reported after a two-week delay in data reporting from the DC Health Department from late April extending to the second week of May. Six members of the DC City Council have called for an investigation about why current COVID-19 data was not reported to the CDC for the late April to early May period. 

“D.C. Health acknowledged that it did not submit COVID-19 case counts, testing data and deaths to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) between April 27 and May 8. The agency did not offer an explanation for its failure to do so,” said the letter signed by Councilmembers Charles Allen, Mary Cheh, Janice Lewis George, Brianne Nadueau, Robert C. White and Trayon White, Sr.  

Public Health Director LaQuandra Nesbitt responded in a letter saying that COVID-19 reporting to the CDC has now resumed.  

Nesbitt indicated the “Epi-Info” system used to submit reports to the CDC had been suspended “out of an abundance of caution. Data submission resumed on May 8, 2022, after a review of internal data found no substantiation of any issues with the collected and reported data” Nesbitt’s letter stated.

Nesbitt went on to explain that a new system D.C. Public Health is being used to report COVID-19 data to the public. 

“Using best practices and in consultation with the CDC, D.C. Health shifted in early March after two years of daily reporting (which required staff to often work past midnight and weekends) to a weekly summary based on community levels” the letter stated. 

So far, the District has not resumed masking recommendations in public settings. Mask requirements ended in the District in March 2022. Starting March 16, masking was optional for D.C. Public Schools students and personnel. 

Prince George’s County has historically taken a more cautious approach since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. 

“We have to remind everybody that the pandemic is not over,” said Dr. Carter in response to the County’s resumption of voluntary masking in public. “We’re dealing with a really highly contagious omicron sub variant right now.”

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