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THE NEWS:

The District’s testing capacity has significantly increased since officials confirmed the first case of the coronavirus disease on March 7. But just 1.5 percent of D.C.’s total population has been tested as health care providers are only testing select individuals with COVID-19 symptoms.

Testing capacity has increased from 300 per 1 million people on March 18 to 18,300 per 1 million as of April 11, said Mayor Muriel Bowser during a press conference on Monday. So far, 1,955 D.C. residents have tested positive for COVID-19, while 10,934 of D.C.’s roughly 705,000 residents have been tested overall. 

“There is clearly more for us to do,” said Bowser, “and everyday we are looking for ways that we can increase our testing capacity.” 

On Monday, Bowser announced that starting in May, D.C.’s public lab will have antibody tests. These are blood tests, or “serological” tests, that determine whether someone has ever been infected and already recovered from COVID-19, which can help public health experts understand the full scope of the pandemic. 

“As we look forward, as we get to the point of at least considering opening up the country as it were, it’s very important to appreciate and to understand how much that virus has penetrated this society,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci about antibody testing on CNN. “It’s very likely that there are a large number of people out there that have been infected, have been asymptomatic, and did not know they were infected.” 

Department of Forensic Sciences Director Jenifer Smith says she will work with DC Health to determine who is eligible for antibody testing. 

The mayor also announced two rapid testing instruments: a Cepheid device, which returns test results in 45 minutes, and an Avid device, which returns test results in 15 minutes. Right now, D.C. has “hundreds” of Cepheid test kits and about 1,000 Avid test kits, said Smith. These new tests can be used in a clinic or mobile laboratory, in addition to D.C.’s public health lab. Currently, D.C.’s public lab has the ability to test 500 people per day. The lab has so far processed 2,442 samples. 

“We are very excited about the new testing options,” said DC Health Director LaQuandra Nesbitt during the presser.

There are a number of testing sites across the city, including at D.C.’s only public acute care hospital, United Medical Center in Ward 8. This testing site is nowhere near meeting capacity as it’s only testing specific groups of individuals experiencing symptoms. When asked if DC Health would consider opening the site to “everyone,” Nesbitt noted that she heard of jurisdictions elsewhere whose sites closed “within a matter of days” because they had loose testing requirements. 

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“As long as we have a scarcity of supply, we are going to do what’s the most medically efficacious for the District,” said Bowser. That said, if someone has symptoms most commonly associated with COVID-19 (shortness of breath, fever, or cough), they should call their medical provider so they can be screened and possibly tested. Amanda Michelle Gomez (tips? agomez@washingtoncitypaper.com

CITY DESK LINKS, by Amanda Michelle Gomez:

  • At Monday’s press conference, Mayor Bowser announces that a 51-year-old man died of the coronavirus disease in DC Jail, making him the first individual to die in D.C. custody. [Twitter

  • As of April 12, there have been 52 deaths associated with COVID-19 in D.C. Of the 14 deaths reported between Friday and Sunday, 13 were black residents. Black residents make up 73 percent of COVID-19 deaths but 49 percent of the total population. At Monday’s presser, DC Health Director Nesbitt says racial disparities reflect systemic inequities that burden the African American community. [EOM]  

  • Police cite 18 businesses for allegedly violating the mayor’s orders shuttering nonessential businesses, although no fines have been levied. [Post]

  • D.C.’s halfway home for men will no longer house returning citizens after April 30. It’s unclear where they will go. [Twitter]

  • In a slew of bills signed into law, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam grants cities the power to remove Confederate monuments, waives 24-hours waiting period for abortions, prohibits discrimination against LGBTQ community, and tightens gun control restrictions by adding background checks and limits on gun purchases. [WAMU, Guardian]

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

  • Are D.C. area hospitals prepared for the surge? [Post]

  • Maryland’s coronavirus data broken down by zip code reveals hot spots in Montgomery County. [WAMU]

  • The coronavirus requires adjustments to the criminal justice system, AG Karl Racine writes in an op-ed. [Post]

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

  • Optimistic chefs are recipe testing at home, hoping they’ll have a chance to show diners new dishes come spring or summer. [WCP]

  • Occasions Caterers partners with community organizations to feed those in need of meals in Wards 7 and 8. [WCP]

  • Trader Joe’s employees attempted to unionize over dangerous work conditions. [Eater]

  • Guidelines don’t go far enough to protect essential food workers. [Post]

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

  • Ladj Ly‘s Les Misérables is a vivid take on a familiar tale of police corruption. [WCP]

  • D.C.’s Shakespeare Theatre Company takes to the internet to showcase the Bard’s work during the pandemic. [WAMU]

  • How local movie theaters are trying to stay alive. [DCist]

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

  • On Friday morning, the XFL abruptly suspended its operations and laid off nearly all of its staff. That means the DC Defenders, which had been building momentum as a pro sports franchise in the city (long live the “beer snake”), will not be returning next year. [WCP

  • Fans will have to wait a while longer to celebrate the WNBA champion Mystics. Their championship parade, originally scheduled for May 12, has been postponed indefinitely due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. [Bullets Forever]

  • The “study” by Belgian researchers making the rounds on social media, and popularized by a Medium post, about runners spreading coronavirus is not actually a study. [Vice]

  • After two seasons with the Maryland men’s basketball team, Ricky Lindo Jr. is transferring to nearby George Washington University. [NBC Sports Washington]

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

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