August 28, 2020 at 10:38 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
D.C. again removes Delaware from list of ‘high-risk’ states
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Mayor Bowser issued an order in July creating the high-risk state-self-quarantine requirement. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Three days after reinstating Delaware to its list of high-risk states for COVID-19, the D.C. Department of Health on Thursday for the second time dropped Delaware from the list, saying it based its flip-flop on new data provided by the Delaware Division of Public Health.

Under an order issued by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser in July, visitors arriving in D.C. from a state on the city’s high-risk list — and D.C. residents returning home from a state designated as high-risk — are required to self-quarantine for 14 days if their travel is considered non-essential.

The mayor’s order designates vacation related travel as non-essential, a development that has had a direct impact on many D.C. residents, including LGBTQ residents, who spend time in the popular Delaware resort city of Rehoboth Beach, a longtime LGBTQ tourist destination.

Delaware was among 27 states that the D.C. DOH declared as high-risk for COVID-19 in its first round of placing states on that list on July 27. The Bowser order defines a high-risk state as one in which the seven-day moving average of daily new COVID-19 cases is 10 or more per 100,000 residents of the state.

The DOH dropped Delaware from its high-risk list in its second round of assessing states for COVID-19 on Aug. 11, saying Delaware’s new case level fell below the threshold for being considered high risk. But in what appeared to be an on-again, off-again assessment of Delaware, the DOH on Monday, Aug. 24, added Delaware back to the high-risk state list as part of its third round of revised assessments of states at risk for COVID.

In its latest statement on Thursday, Aug. 27, the DOH reversed itself once again, saying it dropped Delaware from the high-risk state list based on new information provided by the Delaware health department.

“When DC Health created the most recent list, the posted data indicated that Delaware met the requirements for a high-risk state,” the statement says. “Since then, the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services has provided DC Health with updated data,” the statement continues.

“Epidemiologists from the two health agencies reviewed this matter to understand how Delaware’s publicly available data and the Delaware Department’s latest data could allow this revision,” according to the statement. “Anyone who arrived in the District between 8/24-8/27 after traveling to Delaware and was quarantining, may discontinue and return to their usual activities with the current COVID-19 precautions in place,” it says.

“This includes staying at home when you’re sick, wearing a cloth face mask outside of your household, maintaining 6 feet of distance from others not in your household, and frequent hand washing.”

Jen Brestel, a spokesperson for the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services, told the Blade in an email that “other entities” that reviewed Delaware’s recent COVID case counts may not have taken into account “data quality adjustments” that the department makes  on a day to day basis.

“Delaware was once again added to quarantine lists in the region due to an artificial increase in our total positive case total,” she said. “This temporary increase in the cumulative  number of positive cases, which occurred a couple of weeks ago, was a direct result of processing older (historical) cases and is not representative of the current infection risk in Delaware.”

Mayor Bowser’s order issued in July creating the high-risk state-self-quarantine requirement says individuals traveling from a high-risk state to D.C. for “essential travel” are required only to self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 for 14 days. If they show signs or experience symptoms of COVID-19 during the monitoring period they are required to self-quarantine and seek medical advice or testing, the order says.

Maryland and Virginia are exempt from the order.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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