As the summer concluded, the Washington, D.C. area experienced a surge in COVID-19 cases, sparking concern from residents in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, CDC data shows. The sudden surge after months of steady numbers of cases caused many experts, students, and citizens of the DMV to wonder about the future of the Coronavirus in the U.S.
Since the advent of COVID-19, the pandemic has caused widespread panic and uncertainty, as reported by The Washington Post. Now, three years later, the public view of the virus has altered significantly, causing many members of society to reflect a more relaxed demeanor.
“It’s not considered an emergency anymore, so when you test positive, [people] are kind of just like ‘Okay, you can quarantine for two days, and then you can go out because you’re not contagious,’” Alexis Crawley, a junior elementary education major at Howard, said.
With changing attitudes about the pandemic, people continue to catch the virus. According to the Government of the District of Columbia, during the week of Sept. 17, the case rate was 32.6 percent and the number of COVID-19-related hospital admissions was less than 1 percent.
Although these are very low, there is a large number of people who are not getting tested because they mistake their symptoms for a common cold or the flu, as reported by U.S. News.
“I think everybody stopped caring when people were just getting a cold and [then] tested positive for COVID,” Crawley said.
As the pandemic progressed, the District experienced a large drop in COVID cases and a high vaccination rate, resulting in the closure of COVID centers.
With the increasing number of cases, residents of the District wonder if a lack of resources may have contributed to this surge, and are worried about the increasing variants and number of cases. BA.2.86 and EG.5 infected numerous in the DMV, including First Lady Jill Biden, and are the new dominant variants of SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19.
To combat these strains and improve the testing rates, the Biden administration and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) unveiled a new plan to invest $600 million in 12 COVID test distributors in the U.S. and reopen the website COVIDTests.org.
This will allow for greater production of at-home rapid testing and strengthen “preparedness for the upcoming fall and winter seasons,” Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, Dawn O’Connell said in a statement.
According to The Washington Post, just a few weeks after, schools across the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia reverted to mandatory masking and special COVID protocols after outbreaks in several school districts that some residents of the area attribute to a lack of testing.
Shortly after additional information regarding the EG.5 was announced to the public, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared another COVID booster.
According to the FDA, the updated mRNA COVID-19 vaccination booster is designed to counter newer strains such as Omicron variant XBB.1.5, and is said to be developed enough to combat EG.5 as well. Despite the reported booster information, some members of the D.C. and Howard community remain skeptical of the vaccine.
“A lot of people are tired of getting COVID booster shots, but I think it’s because of how it’s packaged,” Haley Richards, a junior biology major at Howard said.
“People thought it was going to be a one-and-done thing,” she explained.
Nevertheless, questions remain on whether this is foreshadowing a return to the lockdown that the world experienced during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“A lot of people who have [COVID] are asymptomatic and just don’t know, so I think that with everyone going home and being around their families, it’s going to spread very quickly,” Crawley said.
Richards shared similar sentiments but also has hope for the future as D.C. continues to fight against the coronavirus.
“I’m not gonna lie, I’m not super concerned about a return to early [pandemic] lockdown conditions,” she said.
Copy edited by Whitney Meritus