City Paper is not for tourists
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Knowing not everyone was following her original order, Mayor Muriel Bowser changed her travel advisory ahead of the holidays. People coming into the District will no longer be asked to quarantine for 14 days; instead, they are asked to get tested beforehand. The city is not enforcing the advisory, which kicks in Monday.
The advisory, announced on Thursday, asks people who test positive to not travel to D.C. Those who are a “close contact” of someone who’s tested positive for COVID-19 are also asked to not travel. (According to the CDC, a “close contact” is “someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period.”) Travelers are also asked to get tested again within three to five days of arriving in D.C. Officials are recommending individuals get PCR tests instead of rapid tests. (Click HERE for a list of public sites in D.C. where you can get a free test, as well as information on how to get a test delivered to your home.)
The Bowser administration is not enforcing the updated travel advisory at points of entry, nor did it really enforce the original advisory. In lieu of city enforcement, Bowser is empowering private institutions such as hotels, universities, or places of worship to carry out the order by allowing them to require guests to have a negative test result.
There are exceptions to the new advisory: People who are coming into D.C. for less than 24 hours do not need to get tested. And people who are coming into D.C. for a “family emergency” or for “essential work” are also exempt.
People traveling from Maryland and Virginia do not need to be tested. Maryland has a similar travel advisory to D.C., but Virginia does not. Expect states with a low case count and transmission rate to be added to the list of exempted states.
The list of exempted states will be published on Mondays. DC Health is retiring its list of so-called high-risk states from which travelers were asked to self-quarantine upon arriving in D.C. It’s unclear how effective it was, though the mayor’s retirement of the advisory suggests it was not. Businesses may have enforced the quarantine, but DC Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt never used her authority to do so. Testing as opposed to quarantining is easier guidance to follow. Regardless of the travel advisories, Nesbitt says the safest way to celebrate the holidays is with your own household at home.
The easing of travel restrictions comes as cases in the country are on the rise. The U.S. reached a grim milestone on Thursday, surpassing 100,000 new confirmed COVID-19 cases in a single day for the first time during the pandemic.
D.C. is not like the 20 states that are seeing their highest daily counts yet. But according to the coronavirus dashboard on the daily case rate, D.C. has more reported cases in early November than it has since early June, when the city was in Phase 1 of reopening and restricted indoor activities. D.C. is trending in the wrong direction in nearly all its “level of community spread” metrics.
One silver lining? The hospital system is better prepared. “For many health-care providers, the idea of taking care of patients in the midst of a pandemic was a frightening thing to think about,” the section director of infectious diseases at MedStar Washington Hospital Center tells the Post. “But now that we’re months into this, I think most have become more comfortable with it.”
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