DC Mayor Bowser gives health care workers power to ‘revise standards’ as COVID spikes

Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser has given district health care workers the power to “revise standards” of care as COVID-19 spreads through the nation’s capital.

Bowser’s order authorizes health care workers to “revise administrative procedures, deadlines and standards” by January 26.

Other cities and states have issued similar orders, allowing hospitals and health care centers to streamline protocols and prioritize patients in need of immediate lifesaving care.

Mayor Muriel Bowser allowed health care workers in Washington, DC to “revise standards” of care as COVID-19 surges in the capital. Above, Bowser testifies at a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on the District of Columbia statehood bill on Capitol Hill on March 22, 2021.
Carlos Barria / Getty

In early 2022, the cases of COVID-19 in the district have reached a record high. Till January 10, an average of 1,827 new cases have been reported in the district in seven days. Before December 2020, the district’s highest seven-day average was often below 100 new cases a day.

“The strain on the district’s hospitals and healthcare providers has recently increased,” Mayer wrote in her Tuesday order declaring a limited public health emergency. “The physical capacity of hospitals remains strong, but emergency rooms are overwhelmed … leading to delays for both [COVID-related care] And for other patients.”

“Hospitals cannot utilize all their bed capacity due to shortage of staff,” his order continued. “Some hospitals are experiencing 25% of staff on COVID-related leave and some emergency rooms are filled with dozens of individuals waiting for a room in the hospital itself.”

On December 21, 2021, DC resumed its mask mandate for indoor spaces, which will last until at least January 31.

NPR reported that by the end of 2021, DC became the region at highest risk for COVID-19 infection in the US. Despite 68.1 percent of its population being fully vaccinated, the district reported an average of 1,192 new cases per day at that time.

“I suspect that what we are seeing in DC is a collision of increased opportunity for transmission due to the demographics of the district, a missed policy opportunity to prevent transmission, and the transmission dynamics of Omicron,” Dr. Neil J. Sehgal, an assistant professor of health policy and management at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, told NPR.

Sehgal said that nearly half of the district’s population comprises people in the age group of 20 to 49, who are mainly responsible for driving the new infections.

The growth of DCs in cases was also driven by the Omicron variant, which had developed the ability to bypass the immunity conferred by vaccination. Despite this potential, medical professionals maintain that vaccines reduce the symptoms of the variant and reduce a person’s infectivity.

In late December, in nearby Maryland, hospitals and health centers affiliated with the University of Maryland Capital Regional Health (UM Capital) declared a “hospital emergency” amid a recent spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations across the state.

Faced with increased patients in emergency rooms and significant shortages of staff, hospitals implemented “crisis policies” to help workers more effectively treat patients.

Trudy Hall, managing director, UM Capital’s vice president and deputy chief medical officer, said, “This is not a decision we have taken lightly. It is a decision that seeks to address other issues challenging our operations.” It was done after exhausting all methods.”

“COVID-19 has created a need for health care organizations to be nimble and vigilant in fighting this pandemic,” Hall continued.