The U.S., DMV, braces for winter surge due to Omicron variant

By Micha Green and Nicole Batey
Special to the AFRO

The D.M.V. is seeing a COVID-19 surge that has many people quarantined and concerned about gathering with family and friends for the holidays. The Associated Press confirmed that U.S. health regulators, on Dec. 22, authorized the first pill against COVID-19, a Pfizer drug that Americans will be able to take at home to head off the worst effects of the virus.

With Omicron variant rampant through the country and coronavirus rates rising in the District, Mayor Muriel Bowser and her administration are beginning to make changes for the safety of District residents including reinstating the mask mandate indoors and amending the public school reopening day post-Winter Break. “Effective today, masks are required in indoor public settings in the District of Columbia,” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser tweeted on Dec. 21. The mandate is effective through Jan. 31a at 6 a.m., according to the announcement.

And today it was announced that effective Jan. 15, 2022 at 6 a.m., establishments will be required to verify patrons ages 12 and older have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. By Feb. 15, people ages 12 plus must be fully vaccinated in order to enter establishments. Indoor establishments include: restaurants, bars, nightclubs, gyms, events and meeting establishments and indoor cultural and entertainment facilities.

In Baltimore, officials continue to urge all residents to get the vaccine if they haven’t already, and to get their booster if they already had their vaccination. 

Since the Maryland Coronavirus dashboard came back online Dec. 21, it is clear that Baltimore City is entering a new wave of infections. Issues with the state database, due to a recent cyber attack, have made it difficult to track the specific spread in Baltimore. The City Health Department has not been able to obtain specific information regarding cases, deaths, or vaccinations since Dec. 3.

Because the Omicron variant spreads more quickly and easily from person to person and is now the dominant variant here in the U.S., the Baltimore City Health Department is launching at-home testing kits, distributing them via several mechanisms with a focus on equity throughout the city, especially to marginalized populations and communities disproportionately affected by COVID.

At the time of this writing, the only new restriction in Baltimore City is the decision to suspend all Baltimore City Recreation and Parks run sports programming through Jan. 31, 2022.

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Micha Green

AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor