I want to share a quick update today on two new changes in how the District is responding to and slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus that are now in effect. At the top, I want to also note the Mayor extended the Public Health Emergency through October 9 (and may have to again as we move into the fall).
Let's run through both changes. But before we do, I want to spend a moment on why these are so critical. When the pandemic was first hitting the District in the spring, I often wrote to you about why we had to make certain decisions and stressed that due to lags in virus transmission and testing, the steps we took one day wouldn’t show up in terms of results for about two weeks later. So we all asked for patience as actions taken showed up in COVID testing a few weeks later.
That remains true, but I want to speak to the bigger challenge in this moment as we see COVID spiking in many parts of our country, and a slow but steady increase here in the District. This is no longer about trying to flatten the curve or improve metrics two weeks from now. The failure of leadership and response at the federal level has cost time, lives, jobs, and more. The actions we take now are crucial to determining if we can have any form of return or recovery this fall and winter. From a public heath perspective and looking at the data spiking from so many other parts of our country, the time has almost passed in our ability to control COVID spread before the “normal” flu season begins in a few months. Our actions right now, and in the weeks to come, will determine what recovery looks like and will have a deep impact on decisions ranging from schools and small businesses, to Election Day and family holidays. So please take these new rules on masks and travel seriously. No less than our ability to manage the District’s recovery this fall and winter hangs in the balance.
Masks: In a new order last week, the Mayor strengthened the language and requirements around wearing a mask when you leave home. Wearing a mask is the most impactful way that you and I can help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus and help us return to as much "normal" as we can in the short term. Wearing a mask works. Period. The new language permits MPD and other government agencies to issue fines for not wearing a mask when in close proximity to other people for more than a "fleeting time."
But I want to emphasize wearing a mask shouldn't be something done only to avoid punishment. It is a highly-effective public health measure. Along with washing your hands and keeping your distance, wearing a mask will allow us to restrict the spread and get more of our economy working again. If you are tired of all of these restrictions, wear a mask. It is as simple as that.
Here are the the times when you are exempted from wearing a mask:
Travel to High-Risk States Requires Quarantine: Beginning today, the District of Columbia is requiring residents or visitors alike to self-quarantine for 14 days when returning from 27 states, which are defined as a COVID-19 "hot spot." This list of states will be updated every two weeks. What does that mean?
Persons who are self-quarantining after non-essential travel must:
- Stay at their residence or in a hotel room, leaving only for essential medical appointments or treatment or to obtain food and other essential goods when the delivery of food or other essential goods to their residence or hotel is not feasible;
- Not invite or allow guests, other than caregivers, into their quarantined residence or hotel room; and
- Self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 and seek appropriate medical advice or testing if COVID-19 symptoms arise.
Persons returning to the District after essential travel, or arriving in the District for essential travel must:
- Self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 and self-quarantine and seek medical advice or testing if they show symptoms of COVID-19; and
- Limit their activities involving contact with other persons for fourteen (14) days to the purposes that exempted them from the self-quarantine requirement to the extent possible.
Testing: I'll just plug here that testing is available. I've raised concerns that results are taking too much time to be useful, but have also heard from Ward 6 residents who have gotten their test results in just a few days. Let me know if your test results are delayed more than a week (and be sure to keep an eye on your email's spam folder).
Be safe, give each other space and patience - we're all in this together, and we're all dealing with the stress and anxiety of life in a pandemic at different times. Communicating in the right way can make all of the difference.