- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 18, 2020

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on Wednesday announced changes to coronavirus test sites as more people are getting tested and cases are on the rise.

Virus test and co-pay costs are free in the District with or without health insurance, but Miss Bowser now is encouraging those who are insured to show proof at public test sites.

“We’re kinda paying twice in some cases because some of the people coming are insured with District-supported insurance programs, and then we’re also paying for the test,” she said during a press conference. “So we want the insurers to cover their members as they should be doing, as if those members were going to their own doctors’ offices.”

The city reportedly is testing 3,500 to 4,200 people on average each day, which is up from the 1,500 daily test average in the beginning of October.

New test site modifications are necessary as the “increase” is expected to continue, according to Christopher Geldart, acting director of the Department of Public Works.

Nationals Park will open a test site Monday, the same day that citywide test site hours will be extended.

Morning test sites will be open from 8:30 a.m. until 1:00 p.m., and test sites open later in the day at firehouses will run from 2:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Larger tents will be put up at testing spots this weekend to allow for more heat and shelter as winter looms.

Mr. Geldart said test results are available on average between three to five days, and there is currently “no issue” procuring testing materials. He added that many people recently in line at public test sites say they are getting tested due to potential exposure, plans to travel and work-related reasons.

Also at the briefing, Miss Bowser said the $100 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds will be put toward the “Bridge Fund” to help hospitality, entertainment and retail industries impacted by the virus.

D.C. health officials on Wednesday reported five new virus-related deaths, the highest rate since June. Moreover, the seven-day average daily case rate per 100,000 people is 23.1, which is in the “red” zone of reopening phases and has been for days.

The 156 newly confirmed cases brings the total to 19,465, and five additional deaths raises the toll to 665. On Tuesday, the District reported 245 new cases, setting a record as the second highest daily case rate since May.

A reporter asked the mayor why the city is not implementing new restrictions to address the recent surge like Maryland and Virginia. Miss Bowser said the District never began Phase Three of reopening and city officials don’t “want to throw something at it — we want interventions that give us a chance to drive our numbers down.”

The District has been in Phase Two since June, which includes a public mask mandate, gatherings limited to 50 people, and dining establishments limited to 50% of the lowest capacity allowed.

The mayor said the city “won’t be able to maintain this level” of restrictions and more are coming.

“I’m not going to say when, but it will be soon,” said Miss Bowser.

In Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam did not implement any new restrictions Wednesday but said “all options are on the table.”

“We follow the data everyday and all options are on the table,” Mr. Northam said during a virus update. “The less measures that we have to take to mitigate this — the better because as I’ve said all along we want our children to be back in school, we want our businesses to be back open, [and] we want people to be able to go into our restaurants.”

The governor also reiterated the importance of the tightened restrictions he introduced last week.

As of Sunday, social gatherings in Virginia are limited to 25 people or fewer and capacity at sport events is reduced. Bars and restaurants can not serve alcohol past 10 p.m., and must close daily by midnight. Residents aged five and older must wear masks in public, expanded from the previous age requirement of 10.

The Virginia Department of Health on Wednesday reported 1,469 virus-related hospitalizations, the highest number since June. An additional 2,071 new cases brings the statewide total to 208,833, and 25 new deaths increases the toll to 3,860.

Mr. Northam said Wednesday that recent data shows Virginia recently had the fourth-lowest increase of new cases nationwide, but he did not want “to wait for things to get worse before taking actions.”

“I’ll tell you what really motivated me was seeing mobile morgues because there’s no place to put the dead — we don’t need that in Virginia,” he added.

• Emily Zantow can be reached at ezantow@washingtontimes.com.

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