D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that high school sports could tentatively resume in mid-March, barring a surge in cases due to more contagious coronavirus variants.
High school sports could resume in D.C. as early as March 15, barring any surges in cases due to the spread of new and more contagious coronavirus variants.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a press conference Thursday that it's likely sports activities will resume in phases, with the lowest-contact sports starting first.
"Let me just be perfectly candid that we hope on March 15 that this plan moves forward, and it would...not be able to move forward if we saw any significant change in our metrics," said Bowser. "But it has been made very clear to us from schools and parents that they want some planning time, and we're being as helpful as we can with that."
The news comes after a steep decline in the COVID-19 case rate throughout February — though D.C. remains in a phase that DC Health categorizes as "substantial community spread"— and amid an accelerating rollout of vaccines to D.C. residents.
D.C. Public Schools are in the middle of a partial reopening process, and about 9,200 students have returned to classrooms to learn in-person. About 15,000 of the school system's 52,000 students were eligible to return to classrooms as part of the reopening plan. According to DC Health's guidance, sports should resume in phases, starting with zero-contact "re-engagement" like conditioning and later moving to group practices.
Bowser also announced Thursday that D.C. was starting to administer the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine at three "high capacity vaccination sites": The Entertainment and Sports Arena in Southeast D.C., the Providence Health System in Northeast, and the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Northwest. The arrival of 6,000 Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses to the District this week added a significant amount of supply to the city's existing weekly allocation of about 17,000 doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.
D.C. officials also offered further detail on a new pre-registration system for residents that will launch next week. The new system will allow residents who are eligible for vaccines to upload their information via DC Health's website and call center and then get notified by email, phone, and/or text message when an appointment is available for them.
Currently, seniors and residents with certain qualifying medical conditions are eligible for vaccines along with residents from eligible workforce groups, like police officers, staff of schools and childcare facilities, and grocery store employees. Bowser announced Thursday that all teachers and childcare workers will be eligible for vaccines beginning next week; currently, only those who work in-person are eligible.
"We will have more doses and appointments available in addition to having a different way to register for an appointment and have DC Health notify you when it's your turn," said Bowser of the experience for residents seeking vaccines next week.
D.C. officials also highlighted specific efforts they have been making to address the racial and economic disparities that have plagued the vaccine rollout so far. A pilot called "Faith in Vaccines," which partners with Black churches in the District, has been able to vaccinate more than 550 residents at the Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist Church and New Samaritan Baptist Church. In future weeks, vaccines will be available at Allen Chapel AME and Temple of Praise.
A program called "Senior Vaccine Buddies" has been canvassing wards 7 and 8 and made 510 appointments for seniors in those neighborhoods. In addition, 1,011 seniors have been vaccinated at 11 senior public housing properties; 91% of those vaccinated at those sites have been African-American.
Overall, 9.3% of District residents have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. But when looking at the senior population, significant racial disparities persist. As of February 27, 10.5% of seniors in Ward 8, which is 92% Black and has seen the most residents die of the coronavirus, had been vaccinated. In contrast, 27% of seniors in Ward 3, which is more than 80% white, had been vaccinated.
Saturday will mark one year since D.C. confirmed its first case of the coronavirus.
"It has been incredible ... and I don't think any one of us ... would have expected that we would have to shut down our city, close schools, send people home from work, modify our thriving hospitality, arts, and entertainment, have our hospital and health care workers fighting a deadly virus at first with limited supplies, and to have lost over 1,000 Washingtonians," said Bowser.
As for the end of the pandemic, Bowser said "don't give up yet, because it's in sight."
This story is from DCist.com, the local news website of WAMU.