While Mayor Muriel E. Bowser of Washington, D.C., was grappling with the riot that tore through the Capitol last week, another crisis was slowly unfolding in the district: a surge of coronavirus cases.
Washington has been averaging 290 new coronavirus cases a day over the past week, its highest figure for any seven-day stretch of the pandemic. The rest of the Mid-Atlantic region, including Virginia, Maryland and Delaware, is also surging: All three states set weekly case records on Sunday.
At a news conference on Monday, Ms. Bowser urged residents to be vigilant against the virus, noting that the district’s hospitals are being strained by coronavirus patients and that the rate of positive virus test results was worryingly high.
“We remain concerned — as the rest of the country remains concerned — about the increase in cases,” the mayor said.
Starting on Monday, Ms. Bowser said, any resident who is 65 or older can make an appointment to receive the Covid-19 vaccine. The policy follows those of a number of states that have lowered the age threshold from 75, where the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention had recommended it be set for early rounds of vaccinations.
After a surge last spring, Washington managed to keep its case numbers relatively low through the summer and into the fall. When October began, the district was averaging fewer than 40 new cases a day.
But the situation has worsened steadily since then. Case numbers rose steeply over a two-month stretch, reaching a peak in early December. Though case counts ebbed a bit in the days before Christmas, that progress has been undone in the first days of 2021.
It is too soon to know whether the influx of demonstrators last week and the deadly rampage at the Capitol on Wednesday led to a spike in coronavirus infections, either in Washington or in the home states of those who poured into the city.
One lawmaker who has since tested positive, Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey, said on Monday that she believes she was exposed while taking shelter in a Capitol room with other lawmakers who ignored instructions to wear masks.