Last week was a lot to handle. As neighbors of the U.S. Capitol, a dark moment in American history played out on our front lawns. The horror of what we watched was only made worse by our proximity to the events and concern about if it was safe to go to the grocery store or walk the dog.
And we aren't out of the woods yet. While public safety between now and the inauguration certainly remains top of mind, I need to share some information on other important developments in this newsletter. Later this week, I'll send an update more specifically focused on public safety issues related to the inauguration and the days surrounding the transfer of power at the end of this week as we learn more details and information.
COVID-19 Vaccine Update
I've gotten a lot of questions about the District's distribution plan for the COVID-19 vaccine. With this week's announcement that District residents over the age of 65 are now eligible to begin receiving the vaccine, there's a lot of folks trying to register to receive the vaccine, which is great! But it also created a lot of bumps as many more people tried to sign up for an appointment than there were slots available. I've heard from many residents about issues and confusion with the vaccine plan. There are a lot of moving parts in distributing this vaccine, which has very specific and challenging storage, packaging, and distribution requirements. So let's walk through some key points:
- Eligibility for vaccines is following a planned schedule. Right now, health care workers who are regularly exposed to hazardous materials or COVID-19 and cannot work from home are eligible, as are all District residents over the age of 65. However, there are a limited number of available appointments based on the amount of vaccine the District has been issued on a week-to-week basis.
- You can only register for an appointment if you are in a phase that is currently eligible. You cannot register before you are eligible. If you did register in advance, you will need to re-register once you become eligible.
- Only if you are eligible, visit vaccinate.dc.gov or call 855-363-0333 to request an appointment.
- Please note: appointments are limited to the number of vaccine doses available in a given week - if the website says "Records Not Available," that means all appointments have already been booked. We are working with DC Health to provide feedback to make the website and the call center more user-friendly.
- All 6,700 appointments for this week (1/11/21) have been filled. More will be available next week. Once you are eligible, you remain eligible throughout the vaccine rollout.
- To receive an alert when more appointments are available, sign up here.
- Please do not attempt to sign-up for an appointment if you are not eligible.
Here are the announced dates from the DC Health for upcoming eligibility:
- Dec 2020: Health Care Workers who are regularly exposed to hazardous materials and cannot work from home. (You are eligible to register.)
- Jan 11, 2021: District residents over the age of 65. (You are eligible to register.)
- Jan 25, 2021: Other essential workers, including public safety employees, education employees including teachers and child care workers, grocery store workers
- Feb 1, 2021: DC residents with chronic medical conditions and other essential employees
- Washingtonian has a helpful breakdown of all of the planned tiers. Most healthy adults who are able to work from home are in Phase Two.
Finally, if you have questions or concerns about the vaccine, I found this Q&A helpful and would encourage you to read through it: https://coronavirus.dc.gov/vaccine-information
As of today, DC set a new record for COVID-19 positive tests. As I've written before, the spread has never been greater. It is more likely to catch the virus now than it was in March, April, or May of last year. I know there's a lot of fatigue and there's an enormous amount going on. But please keep your guard (and mask) up. And stay patient as the DOH workers are getting the vaccine out to everyone in stages.
Public Safety Surrounding the Presidential Inauguration
As I mentioned at the top, I'm pulling together a more comprehensive email later this week to update residents on preparations for Jan 14-21. Obviously the domestic terror attack last week on our US Capitol is front and center in the minds of Ward 6 neighbors especially, so a few quick updates:
- The Mayor has been granted an emergency declaration in advance of the Jan 20 inauguration. This allows from greater planning and speeds up access to more funding for a more robust security profile than previous inaugurations.
- More than 15,000 members of the National Guard are available to be activated.
- Airbnb is working with MPD to identify members of hate groups or attendees of the Jan 6 attacks to cancel any existing bookings. I spoke with Airbnb representatives over the weekend and again this week to push them to be as proactive as possible at identifying anyone known to be a member of a hate group or having participated in the Jan 6 attack on the Capitol and preventing them from renting here again.
- The District will be providing text alerts on public safety, road closures, weather, and any other urgent info to residents via text message. Text INAUG2021 to 888-777 to opt-in to these updates.
- All Americans, including DC residents, are encouraged strongly to take in the inauguration from home by watching on TV or participating virtually.
Making H Street Safer
Despite a global pandemic and the president of the US inciting a riot, the work of improving our community carries on. In the past few years, there have been at least three scary car crashes on H Street, NE that have killed people and done serious damage to our businesses and nonprofits. I stand with our ANCs, businesses on H Street, and neighbors who are calling on DDOT to make safety improvements along H Street in an effort to slow down traffic, protect pedestrians (especially when crossing the street), and improve the flow of public transportation including both buses and the streetcar. I spoke with ABC7 about the challenges recently.
Bridge Fund for Recovery Open to Entertainment Venues, Restaurants, and Retail
This week also marked the opening of the application window for entertainment venues in the District to apply for a total of $20 million in bridge funding to help make ends meet for businesses during the pandemic. The funding window remains open for restaurants ($35 million) and retail stores ($15 million) as well. Learn more here: https://coronavirus.dc.gov/page/bridge-fund
Indoor Dining Ban Extended Until January 22 at 5 am
Separately, the Mayor has extended the ban on indoor dining due to high community spread rates of COVID-19 until January 22. This also includes keeping museums closed and libraries offering only curbside pickup. Read more from WAMU: https://dcist.com/story/21/01/12/bowser-extends-indoor-dining-ban-amid-heightened-security-in-d-c/
As a reminder, restaurants are still able to offer takeaway and delivery, and retail businesses can continue to operate with careful plans in place. Keep supporting our local businesses so we get through this with the businesses we love still here.
Holiday Tree Curbside Pick-up Begins This Week
Just a quick flag that the city will remove your holiday tree and other greenery for free. Starting January 11, you can leave your trees out to be collected where you normally leave the trash. For more information, click here:https://dpw.dc.gov/service/%E2%80%98tis-season-holiday-trees-greenery-collection
Council Period 24 is Underway
The District Council officially began Council Period 24 on January 2 with the swearing-in of newly-elected members. This Council includes two new members, my Ward 4 colleague Councilmember Janeese Lewis George and my At-Large colleague Councilmember Christina Henderson. Ward 2 Councilmember Brook Pinto, who won a special election last year, was sworn in to begin her first full term. And Councilmembers Robert White, Vince Gray, and Trayon White all took the oath to begin a new term as well.
I will continue to chair the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety as I continue the work of making our city a safe and a just place for everyone. That means finding ways to end gun violence, expanding our violence intervention efforts, and continuing criminal justice reforms that ultimately will make us a safer city. I will be a member of the Committee on Business and Economic Development, Health, and Transportation and the Environment.
With the new Council comes new responsibilities. I have been tasked with co-chairing a Special Committee on COVID-19 Pandemic Recovery, focused on ensuring the District comes back as a more equal place than before the pandemic. I will be co-chairing this committee with my Ward 7 colleague, Councilmember Vince Gray.