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Mayor Muriel Bowser has a bit of good news to share: D.C. is seeing a lower number of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations than officials expected.

“Today the number of positive cases that we have in D.C. is far less than we thought it could be on this day based on our models,” Bowser told Fox 5 on Tuesday. “We think that we have flattened the curve in an amazing way, which has given our doctors and nurses in our hospitals more time to make sure that we have the surge capacity that we need. So D.C. residents have done an amazing job by staying at home and flattening the curve.” 

On April 3, Bowser and her team projected that over 93,600 peopleor roughly 1 in 7 D.C. residentswould become infected with COVID-19 over the course of the pandemic. D.C. opted to use University of Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 Hospital Impact Model for Epidemics, or the CHIME model, to make this determination. That model underestimates the impact of social distancing. The CHIME model had D.C. reaching its peak in hospitalizations between late June and early July and needing nearly 3,000 acute beds and 2,800 ICU beds during this time. 

On April 20, Bowser said she expects a peak in hospitalizations sometime in mid-June, while a peak in COVID-19 cases would happen before that time and deaths after that. Modeling so far suggests D.C. may not see its worst-case scenario. That said, D.C. is preparing for the worst anyway by setting up the convention center with at least 500 beds for non-ICU patients. The goal is never to use them, the mayor has repeatedly said.    

Right now, hospitals are not overwhelmed with medical surge and operating at 70 to 75 percent capacity, said DC Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt during Monday’s press conference. No hospital is exceeding its ICU capacity. “We continue to follow and monitor those trends to look for when we would need to move into that capacity,” said Nesbitt. 

The bit of good news does not mean D.C. is ready to gradually open. The number of deaths related to COVID-19 in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia surpassed 1,000 on Tuesday. There are criteria Bowser and her team are using to make these decisions. Nesbitt shared some of these criteria in a call with the D.C. Council on Monday: D.C. needs to see a “consistent or persistent” decrease in COVID-19 for two weeks; hospitals must operate without crisis; health care providers need to have personal protective equipment “without stress;” and testing needs to expand. 

What Phase 1 will look like is a different discussion,” Nesbitt told councilmembers.

States need to test enough people before they can begin to relax social distancing requirements, and DC Health is looking to get clarity on daily average capacity in the next couple of days. Right now, DC Health does not have a meaningful assessment of testing beyond the total number of tests per day in the public health lab. Amanda Michelle Gomez  (tips? agomez@washingtoncitypaper.com

CITY DESK LINKS, by Amanda Michelle Gomez:

  • Bowser did not hold a daily press conference but instead made appearances on various broadcast news outlets.

  • The District reported seven additional deaths related to COVID-19. All of the deceased were black residents. Now, 80 percent of the 112 lives lost due to the coronavirus disease are black. Wards 6 and 8 have seen the most deaths. As of April 20, 3,098 residents have tested positive for COVID-19, while 14,939 have been tested overall. 

  • To help people stay six feet apart, D.C. will temporarily expand some sidewalks near grocery stores and other essential businesses. [GGW]

  • Maryland purchased 500,000 tests from South Korea. [Post]

LOOSE LIPS LINKS, by Mitch Ryals (tips? mryals@washingtoncitypaper.com

  • After weeks of pressure to address the facilities, Mayor Muriel Bowsertaps youth rehabilitation services director Clinton Lacy to oversee court-ordered coronavirus protocols at the DC Jail and St. Elizabeths. [Post]

  • D.C. developers and businesses ask for tax breaks in COVID-19 recovery. [WAMU]

  • DC Public Charter School Board meeting was Zoombombed with child porn. [Twitter]

  • D.C. contracts with Hensel Phelps Construction Co. to convert the convention center into a medical facility. [Bisnow]

  • Affordable senior housing development proposed near Skyland Town Center in Ward 8. [Urban Turf]

YOUNG & HUNGRY LINKS, by Laura Hayes (tips? lhayes@washingtoncitypaper.com

  • Only about 2,000 applicants will receive awards from the city’s $25 million microgrant program.  [WCP]

  • Florida Avenue Grillsays beware of faulty restaurant fundraisers. [Washingtonian]

  • Cat cafe Crumbs & Whiskers might not make it through COVID-19. [PoPville]

  • Whole Foods is tracking which of its stores are most likely to unionize. [Business Insider]

  • Facing pressure, Shake Shack returns its $10 million small business loan. [Eater]

ARTS LINKS, by Kayla Randall (tips? krandall@washingtoncitypaper.com)

  • Local custom framing startup Framebridge is now making face shields for workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. [Washingtonian]

  • Grounded, a new plant subscription service, aims to give customers a little green therapy. [DCist]

  • Area musicians are writing new songs about coronavirus quarantine. [WAMU]

SPORTS LINKS, by Kelyn Soong (tips? ksoong@washingtoncitypaper.com)

  • Ryan Zimmerman and his wife, Heather, have helped raise over $310,000 for health care workers in Northern Virginia. “They’re really the true heroes in all of us,” Zimmerman told reporters. [Post]

  • Local ultrarunner Michael Wardian, winner of the recent Quarantine Backyard Ultra,and fast casual restaurant Little Sesame are hosting a virtual 5K race tomorrow for Earth Day. [Twitter]

  • Scot McCloughan, the former general manager for the Washington NFL team, says Chase Young is the best defensive end talent he’s scouted in 28 years. [Hogs Haven]

CITY LIGHTS, by Emma Sarappo (Love this section? Get the full newsletter here. Tips? esarappo@washingtoncitypaper.com)

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