Maryland has launched a “No arms left behind” initiative, with expanded walk-up options, mobile clinics and direct outreach to the elderly and college students. D.C. opened 10 walk-up clinics this week and is organizing a May 1 day of service that will focus on encouraging unvaccinated residents to get the shots.
“We’re at the point, very soon, where we will have enough vaccine to meet the demand for people who are early adopters of the vaccine,” Bowser told participants in an Advisory Neighborhood Commission meeting in Ward 2 on Wednesday night. “Now our job is to get everyone else, so we can achieve 60 and 70 percent of D.C. residents vaccinated. That’s when we’ll know we’ll really be at a point where we’re crushing the virus.”
With everyone 16 and older now eligible, other jurisdictions are also working their way through registration lists. In Montgomery County, for example, the number of people who have signed up for vaccination and are still awaiting an appointment has declined from a high of 210,000 in March to 40,000. Maryland had worked through its 800,000-person preregistration list as of earlier this week, officials said, although not all have scheduled appointments yet and about 5,000 new people register each day.
In Virginia, where Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced plans to loosen some pandemic restrictions as of May 15, more than half of adults are at least partly vaccinated. Fairfax County, the state’s most populous jurisdiction, has worked through its Phase 1 waitlist of 435,690, according to the county website. Officials in Loudoun and Arlington counties and the city of Alexandria said everyone who had preregistered in their Phase 1 efforts had been contacted to make an appointment as well.
More than 180,000 D.C. residents have signed up for vaccination through the city’s portal. But Bowser has noted that there are hundreds of thousands more who have not.
The walk-up sites are an effort to reach those people. While most shots are reserved for seniors, the Bald Eagle Recreation Center offered them to residents of Wards 7 and 8 who are 18 and older on Wednesday and Thursday. The sites will soon serve all residents, Bowser said.
The city also launched its Faith in Vaccine clinic for the Asian American and Pacific Islander community at the Chinese Community Church in Chinatown on Wednesday. Community leaders there said people faced language and transportation barriers in getting vaccinated, and may also have been reluctant to venture out because of recent and highly publicized anti-Asian attacks.
Chao Chi Liu, 86, a resident of the Wah Luck House apartment building in Chinatown, learned about the clinic down the block from his building manager and was one of 150 people to get a shot. He’d heard of other opportunities to get vaccinated, but he didn’t pursue them.
“Because of my age, it’s kind of inconvenient for me to go outside to get the vaccine,” Liu said through an interpreter. “And so when they told me there’s a clinic here, that’s why I took advantage of it.”
Shelly McDonald-Pinkett, the chief medical officer at Howard University and manager of the vaccination site, said such community-based efforts are “the best way to reach those who are people of color, and those with English as a second language, and those who may be underserved.”
Leaders hope to bring similar clinics to other religious sites in the coming weeks, including those that serve both the Muslim and Ethiopian communities, said the Rev. Thomas Bowen, director of the Mayor’s Office of Religious Affairs.
Wayne Turnage, D.C. deputy mayor for health and human services, called vaccination the most effective way to defeat “one of the most pernicious viruses this country has ever seen.” He warned that if residents are not vaccinated, the virus will continue to spread — primarily in areas with low uptake.
“We’re close; we’re near the goal line. It would be so disheartening if a large part of the population decided at this point they will not get the vaccine,” Turnage said at the ANC meeting Wednesday night. “That would slow us down tremendously, and it could potentially have adverse consequences.”
In Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said this week that 18 percent of seniors have not received a vaccine, and the state is trying to make direct contact with 70,000 of the state’s Medicaid recipients who are older than 50. In addition, Safeway, Giant and Rite Aid will be conducting clinics at senior centers.
The state is also reserving appointments for college students at mass vaccination sites. And Maryland’s Vaccine Equity Task Force is expanding its mobile clinic operation, including its first walk-up clinic in Cumberland.
“Next to getting vaccinated, the most important thing you can do is to encourage your neighbors, co-workers, friends and family to get vaccinated as well,” Hogan said at a news conference Wednesday. “We truly are close to the light at the end of the tunnel. . . . So that all of us can finally put this global pandemic behind us.”
Northam on Thursday lifted or loosened restrictions on social gatherings, entertainment venues and alcohol sales, effective May 15. Restaurants may return to selling alcohol after midnight and can stay open from midnight to 5 a.m. The limit on people allowed to gather will increase from 50 to 100 indoors and from 100 to 250 outdoors.
Indoor entertainment and amusement venues will be able to operate at 50 percent capacity or 1,000 people, up from 30 percent capacity or 500 people. Outdoor venues will be able to operate at 50 percent capacity, up from 30 percent, with no cap on the number of attendees.
The limit on indoor spectator sports will be 250 people or 50 percent capacity, whichever is less, up from 100. Outdoors, recreational sporting events can have 1,000 spectators, or 50 percent capacity, whichever is less, up from 500.
Compared with other parts of the country, the D.C. area appears to have handled the pandemic well, according to a report published Thursday by the D.C. auditor’s office.
Analysts from Georgetown University and the company Talus Analytics praised the region’s pandemic policies in the reports, saying that they think the relatively aggressive response to the virus helped make the winter surge in cases less severe in the District and its suburbs.
When the researchers looked at a long list of policies, they found that mask mandates were the most strongly correlated with fewer cases of the virus. Capping the size of mass gatherings and restricting the hours and capacity of restaurants and other businesses were also highly correlated. D.C., Maryland and Virginia used all of these approaches.
The research looked at cellphone data to track where residents of every state traveled during the pandemic and found that local laws tracked closely with people’s actual behavior.
The states with the smallest case surges were the ones where people spent the most time at home every month, and the states with the biggest surges were the ones where people stayed home the least. Residents of sicker states spent more time at work, in retail stores and at the supermarket.
This winter, when the average American was spending about 30 percent less time at the office than before the pandemic, D.C. residents were spending about 50 percent less time at work, the report said.
Maryland and Virginia also outperformed the national average on time spent at home, but by far smaller margins than the District. The authors posited that the District benefited from a high number of residents who were willing and able to work from home, which in turn led to a less severe outbreak locally.
Erin Cox, Michael Brice-Saddler, Rebecca Tan, Ovetta Wiggins and Julie Zauzmer contributed to this report.