***Breaking COVID-19 vaccine news: DC seniors 65+ can sign up for vaccination appointments today and Monday. Today, seniors in Wards 1, 4, 5, 7, 8 can call 1-855-363-0333 or visit vaccinate.dc.gov. On Monday, seniors all across the city, including in Wards 2, 3, and 6, can sign up for appointments. More explanation below!***
On to the inauguration: These next five days are anxious ones for our city and our country. I live eight blocks from the U.S. Capitol, very close to Union Station. Early yesterday morning, I walked from my house around the entire hard security perimeter set up to protect the Capitol complex. It is large and wide-ranging, miles of tall black fencing and non-scalable gray fencing with very visible armed National Guard troops on the other side. It is a militarized zone.
I am saddened this is the case but I agree with the decision to proceed with the outdoor Presidential swearing-in ceremony on the west front of the Capitol, because it is necessary to send the message that hate will not win. The Trump extremists, including white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and conspiracy peddlers, who converged in a violent insurrection at the Capitol January 6 to stage a coup and overturn the democratic and fair election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, cannot be emboldened in any way, shape or form.
There is a security tradeoff, and the impact on each of you, on your family members who live here, and on our city is significant. Daily life will be inconvenienced for at least the next week, with shutdowns of public transportation, as well as bridge and road closures. Parts of our beautiful city, including much of the federal core and the National Mall, will be closed even to pedestrians. The lead agency making these decisions is the U.S. Secret Service, with cooperation from federal and local governments.
Mayor Bowser held a press briefing <[link removed]> with some of these agencies yesterday morning to talk about the security measures, and my colleagues and I met with local public safety agencies as well. As you have read, messages on social media indicate extremists will try to converge on our city again. Our Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) will be coordinating with many federal law enforcement partners to keep all of us safe. Below I’ll detail what Chief Robert Contee has said about MPD’s deployment during this time.
I ask for you to be vigilant and alert. If you see suspicious activity, there are several ways to report this information to MPD:
- For immediate threats or emergencies, call 911
- To report suspicious activity or behavior, call: (202) 727-9099
- Report by using MPD’s iWATCH website: iwatchdc.org <[link removed]>
- Report by using MPD’s Text Tip Line at: 50411
There are several ways to stay informed of inauguration-related activity:
- Via the web athttps://inauguration.dc.gov
- Texting INAUG2021 to 888-777
Meanwhile, we are still in the midst of a very deadly pandemic. As I headlined above, DC Health has opened up nearly 6,000 first dose vaccine appointments to be filled Saturday and Monday. However demand for the COVID-19 vaccine far outpaces supply right now. According to DC Health, we have 86,000 seniors 65+ in the District. That means vaccination slots are like getting tickets to Hamilton. Plus, as I’ll detail below, in the first week of appointments for seniors, data showed a distinct disparity between wards, which is why DC Health decided to take a different approach this round. Many residents contacted my office about difficulty getting appointments, and DC Health has made some adjustments given the feedback. I’ll go into more detail on this, again, below.
I wanted to keep this as short and easy-to-read as possible given we are all stretched thin right now. Take care and please feel free to get in touch with me if you have questions, concerns, or need someone to talk to at this challenging time. We will get through all this together. It is so important to show compassion and empathy both for others and especially for yourselves at this time.
Public Safety in Neighborhoods During This Period
At the mayor’s press briefing and in a subsequent community conversation yesterday, MPD Chief Contee stressed that the large federal law enforcement presence in the inauguration zone allows MPD to focus on District residents and businesses and safety on our streets.
As I mentioned, I live very close to the Capitol. One concern I’ve heard my neighbors express, as well as those who live in Penn Quarter, Foggy Bottom, and Southwest is that the large security perimeter around the Capitol and Mall might push extremists onto residential streets. Chief Contee said at the mayor’s press conference that MPD will be placing more officers and other resources in these areas.
Another point the Chief stressed: Please call 911 and report any suspicious activity. Let MPD decide whether it is worth investigating. Tipsters to MPD helped make arrests on January 6 for illegal firearms.
The Chief said that MPD will be on full activation, with officers working 12-hour shifts. He said that this measure will allow the department to respond to all calls, and that residents should not see a difference in service during this time.
As far as whether other public safety measures such as a curfew might be put in place, the Chief said that it is an option but that decision will be made based on circumstances. No decision has been made yet. The mayor has extended the public safety emergency to cover this time so that decisions like this can be made nimbly.
Street and Bridge Closures
The U.S. Secret Service is the lead agency on street closures. You can find a list of the closures as of Friday night here <[link removed]>. The District’s Inauguration website will have the latest information on road closures, and travel apps such as Google Maps should help show which roads are closed.
Travel to Virginia will be very limited. Last night, it was announced that the Arlington Memorial Bridge will be closed through Thursday at 6pm, and the Theodore Roosevelt and 14th Street Bridge will both be closed in the coming days. If you have appointments across the Potomac, please adjust accordingly.
Metrorail and Metrobus
Metro will close <[link removed]> 13 stations inside the security perimeter, with 11 stations closed now and two additional stations closing today. These closures will continue through the end of service on Thursday. Trains will pass through the closed stations without stopping.
In addition, 26 bus routes will be detoured around the expanded security perimeter through Thursday. Metrobus will operate normal service on weekdays and weekends to accommodate customers making trips outside the zone, with the exception of January 20, when buses will operate on a Saturday schedule.
As I mentioned above, DC just announced more vaccine appointments for our residents. Today beginning at 9am, residents 65 years of age and older in wards 1, 4, 5, 7, and 8 can call 855-363-0333 or log on to coronavirus.dc.gov/vaccinatedc <[link removed]> to make an appointment to get vaccinated. On Monday at 9am, more appointments will be released for senior residents in all the wards.
Why did DC Health decide to reserve vaccine appointments for certain wards? You might have read press coverage that concerns about racial equity and the digital divide were raised by some councilmembers in a discussion with DC Health. I was one of those members. Specifically, I asked our health director if there was any consideration of reserving some vaccine appointments for residents in neighborhoods that have the highest transmission and death rates from COVID-19. My Ward 5 colleague, Kenyan McDuffie, spoke very forcefully about observations from his ward and other colleagues asked for more information. Last night, the District released a map of who is getting the appointments. The difference between the wards is stark: Ward 8, which has seen 20 percent of our COVID deaths, had just 94 residents able to get an appointment. That’s about 1 percent of the appointments. Ward 3 got about 40 percent.
I expect this is difficult news to read. Everyone who wants a vaccine should get one as quickly as possible. I agree, and I am optimistic that distribution will improve with the Biden administration. Yet we need to be aware that a “first come, first served” approach does not take into consideration inequities in our community. I do feel strongly that we need to make sure that our residents most at risk from contracting and dying from COVID-19 have access to the vaccine. I also expressed concerns, which didn’t get as much press coverage, that we need to do more with our residents whose first language is not English; many of these neighbors work in essential jobs and risk exposure to COVID every day just going to work.
Sometimes I get ribbed for being a data-driven councilmember; of course, data shouldn’t be the only factor in policy making, but I do believe we need data to inform us and help us make course corrections so that our policies are fair and equitable. There is reluctance of some neighbors, particularly in the Black community, to trust the vaccine. And it is also true that Ward 3 has a large number of seniors. That’s why we need to look at our policies and not be afraid to question whether they are fair to everyone and accomplish the main goal: to keep our residents safe and healthy.
If you are over the age of 64 and want to schedule an appointment, please call the District’s call center at 855-363-0333, Monday through Friday from 8 am to 7pm and Saturday from 8 am to 4 pm, or go to [link removed].
If you know of anyone age 65 or older in the District, especially in wards 1, 4, 5, 7, and 8, please call them today and see if they need help signing up for a vaccine. Friends don’t let friends go unvaccinated.
If you do not work in a health care setting or not a District resident 65 years of age and older, submit your email address or mobile phone <[link removed]> and you will receive an email or text message when the registry opens to additional populations.
Councilmember Elissa Silverman
Councilmember Elissa Silverman - United States
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