A vial of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Photo by Darrow Montgomery.

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If you were starting to believe the pandemic was winding down—it’s time to stop. This week, D.C. set a new record COVID case record, 21 months into the pandemic. 508 new cases were reported between Dec. 14 and Dec. 15, according to DC Health data released yesterday. Just this morning, Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White announced he tested positive for COVID.

“Our kids and Familes are not safe,” he wrote. “We need to shut it back down and should not be unmasking.” 

Driving this uptick, in part, is the Omicron variant. To date, four cases of the variant have been confirmed in D.C. Despite only being discovered three weeks ago, it is contributing to an influx of cases that are taxing America’s overwhelmed health care systems. Vaccines are significantly less effective at fighting off the Omicron variant. According to a recent, grimly titled piece from Atlantic science writer Ed Yong, “America Is Not Ready for Omicron.”

“The variant’s threat is far greater at the societal level than at the personal one, and policy makers have already cut themselves off from the tools needed to protect the populations they serve,” he writes.

This uptick in cases has shown itself in several sectors in and around D.C. With case numbers certain to increase, how will local leaders respond? 

Schools

COVID-19 outbreaks at at least two area schools have forced administrators to revert to virtual learning. Whittier Elementary School in Ward 4 moved completely online this week after more than 100 students and staff were quarantined due to 14 positive cases. The students will return to in-person learning Jan. 3, after their winter break.

“The decision to shift the entire school to virtual instruction for the next week did not come lightly, Principal Tiffany Johnson wrote in a letter to the school community. “However, with many students required to quarantine and limited staffing availability, virtual learning will allow all students to end the calendar year strong.”

Georgetown Preparatory Academy also saw an influx of cases. The private, all-boys Catholic high school in Montgomery County found 30 positive cases among the school’s 500 studentd. They will also return after winter break.

D.C. Public Schools did not respond to a request for comment. However, D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Lewis Ferebee told DCist there’s no threshold a school has to clear before they close. 

“We intend to operate fully until we can’t,” he said, adding this about Whittier Elementary. “This was a scenario in which staffing was impacted at the level where we could not continue to operate with the same goals for our learning environment.”

Universities

Georgetown University confirmed its first case of Omicron on campus Monday. Just a day later, it announced that all students, staff, and visitors would be required to get their booster shot if they’re eligible. Since then, 34 students have tested positive and the university has implemented other mitigation efforts such as canceling indoor events or moving them outdoors and asking students to eat in their rooms. Remaining exams will be taken virtually.

George Washington University and American University have also announced similar booster shot mandates, while Howard University is recommending them. In a statement, AU says it’s seen a “recent increase” in cases but isn’t seeing evidence of spread in the classroom or dining halls. 

“There are no scheduled university or student-organization sponsored events for students during the final exam period, so there are no events to cancel or modify,” AU’s press say. “Our health and safety measures will continue as we conclude the semester.  Exams finish tomorrow.”

A mask advisory remains in place, but Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office has not said whether it will reinstate a mask mandate after lifting it on Nov. 22.

Bailey Vogt (tips? bvogt@washingtoncitypaper.com)

Credit: Ambar Castillo

D.C. Domestic Workers Call in Councilmember Silverman’s Promise

D.C. Domestic Workers Alliance members rally at the Wilson Building for inclusion in workplace protections.

  • To see today’s COVID-19 data, visit our coronavirus tracker.
  • The first 7000-series Metro train is back in service after a two-month suspension. [WTOP]
  • The University of Maryland cancels its winter commencement, joining local universities like Georgetown in cancelling in-person events due to a spike in COVID-19 cases. [WUSA9]
  • Two resource officers at a public high school in Alexandria face an investigation for alleged misconduct. [Post]

By Ambar Castillo and Bailey Vogt (tips? acastillo@washingtoncitypaper.com and bvogt@washingtoncitypaper.com)

Mitch Ryals is away from his desk. Loose Lips Links will return in January.

By Mitch Ryals (tips? mryals@washingtoncitypaper.com)

Credit: Laura Hayes

The 13 Best Dishes Under $35 D.C. Area Restaurants Served in 2021

D.C. area chefs kept the hits coming over the past year. Comfort food came calling […]

  • Where to find dishes that reach back to the ’90s in D.C. [Washingtonian]
  • Call Your Mother expands to West End, replacing the cafe area inside Mercy Me. [WBJ]
  • Critic Tom Sietsema reviews Los Compañeros in Adams Morgan. [Post]

By Laura Hayes (tips? lhayes@washingtoncitypaper.com)

Credit: StoneCold

City Lights: StoneCold and Co. Will Renew Your Faith in Guitars

The winners of the 2018 Loudoun County Youth Battle of the Bands and Alex’s Army’s […]

  • Looking for #shoplocal inspo? Check out this roundup of books—fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and children’s books—by local authors. [DCTrending
  • Speaking of books, Politics and Prose owners have hired Jones Day, a law firm known for “aggressive anti-union tactics,” following the announcement that their employees are seeking to unionize. [DCist]
  • Meanwhile, the Kennedy Center has postponed the premiere of Temptations musical Ain’t Too Proud due to breakthrough COVID cases among the fully vaccinated company. [Kennedy Center]

By Sarah Marloff (tips? smarloff@washingtoncitypaper.com)

Credit: Darrow Montgomery/File

With Sports Betting Legal Across DMV, GambetDC’s Issues Become Clearer

Last week, Maryland cut the ribbon on legal sports betting. Beating Maryland and Virginia to […]

  • Washington Football Team quarterback Taylor Heinicke has been added to the team’s lengthy COVID-19 list. Washington heads to Philadelphia to play the Eagles on Sunday. [NFL.com]
  • The awards keep piling up for Washington Spirit forward Trinity Rodman, who was named U.S. Soccer’s Young Female Player of the Year. [ESPN]
  • With their 118-98 loss to the Phoenix Suns last night, the Wizards have lost four straight games and seven of their last eight. [Bullets Forever]

By Kelyn Soong (tips? ksoong@washingtoncitypaper.com)

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