Almost a quarter of positive coronavirus cases in the District have been linked to social events with five or more attendees, the city’s health director said Wednesday.
Social events involving family and friends yielded the highest percentage of infections, followed by workplaces at nearly 22%, restaurants and bars at 21% and travel outside of the metropolitan region at almost 18%, according to contact tracing data from 374 D.C. residents. About 6% of cases were related to religious activities.
About 63% of the social events attended by residents who have tested positive for the coronavirus did not consistently follow safety protocols such as maintaining a social distance of 6 feet and wearing face masks.
“This suggests to us a phenomenon that is happening across the country when we speak with our colleagues in other cities: that people are becoming very comfortable and relaxed when they attend gatherings hosted by their friends and family,” Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt told reporters Wednesday at a press conference.
The District has published guidelines for hosting events safely during the COVID-19 pandemic such as hosting outdoor activities instead of indoor, providing plenty of soap and water and hand sanitizer for guests, keeping a list of those who attended for contact tracing purposes and arranging seating to promote social distancing.
For workplaces, health care facilities were linked to the bulk of positive coronavirus cases, Dr. Nesbitt said.
For restaurants and bars, the health director said people dining in should wear masks when not actively eating, book reservations ahead of time and avoid crowding around the waiting area. With regard to travel, she said there have been issues with people getting tested for COVID-19 but then not self isolating before traveling while knowingly or unknowingly being infectious.
As of Wednesday, the District reported 16,132 coronavirus infections and 638 deaths among residents. The city also recorded a 2% test positivity rate.
D.C. officials also urged people to get their flu shots before Halloween amid concerns of a “twindemic” with flu season and COVID-19. The D.C. Department of Health has partnered with CVS Pharmacy and Walgreens to offer free flu vaccines at public testing sites.
Walgreens is providing flu shots at the Judiciary Square testing site on F Street NW Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. CVS Pharmacy is providing flu shots at firehouse Engine 8 at 1520 C St. SE, Engine 30 at 50 49th St. NE and Engine 33 at 101 Atlantic St. SE on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Also, during the pandemic, the city has taken steps to make it easier to get health insurance. Mila Kofman of D.C. Health Link said small businesses and nonprofits that can’t afford to contribute to an employee premium can still sign up for health insurance.
There are no late fees or interest for late payment of premiums for employers covered through D.C. Health Link. Neither residents nor businesses will have their insurance coverage terminated due to nonpayment.
Window shopping for health insurance plans runs from Oct. 15 through Oct. 31. Open enrollment starts Nov. 1 and lasts through Jan. 31. Individuals who need insurance for COVID-19 can enroll immediately.
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