Asymptomatic Spread a Major Source of Infection, D.C. Health Finds

Members with the Washington, D.C. Dept. of Health administer Covid-19 tests on F Street on Aug. 14, 2020. This location tests approximately 450-500 people per week and has been open since June 1. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Members with the Washington, D.C. Dept. of Health administer Covid-19 tests on F Street on Aug. 14, 2020. This location tests approximately 450-500 people per week and has been open since June 1. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) Associated Press

 

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An analysis from the district's health department found that 51% of people who tested positive for the virus between July 31 and Aug. 13 likely got it from an infected person who showed no symptoms.

Asymptomatic spread has been a major source of coronavirus infections in Washington D.C., according to data released Monday by the district’s health department.

In an analysis of 971 confirmed cases of coronavirus between July 31 and Aug. 13, DC Health found that 51% of people who tested positive for the virus said they had not come into contact with anyone diagnosed with Covid-19 during the exposure period—meaning their infection was transmitted by someone who showed no symptoms.

The analysis included three case studies to illustrate asymptomatic spread, including four college friends who flew to Los Angeles for July 4th, stayed at a rental home and interacted only with each other. One friend developed symptoms the day after the group arrived in California. Upon returning home, all four tested positive.

Another case shows how three branches of one family became infected with the coronavirus after attending a birthday party together. No one in attendance developed symptoms until the day after the party.

Survey results also showed that 145 respondents had attended a gathering of five or more people during the two weeks they were contagious without symptoms. More than 60% of those patients said that at least some part of the event occurred indoors and that guests did not adhere to social distancing guidelines.

More than 100 respondents also said they had traveled during their two-week exposure period, including 71% who took a flight, 33% who used a ride-share service, like Lyft or Uber, and nearly 7% who rode some type of public transportation.

The analysis concludes by urging residents to continue to take precautions to limit both the spread of the virus and their exposure to it, including avoiding non-essential travel, staying home when experiencing even mild symptoms of illness, and continuing to wear a mask around anyone who does not live in their households, including family members.

“Wearing a mask around friends, family, and coworkers is not a sign of distrust or disrespect,” the presentation says. “It signals that you care about their health and well-being.”

As of Monday there were 13,325 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Washington, D.C., and 599 deaths.

Kate Elizabeth Queram is a staff correspondent for Route Fifty and is based in Washington D.C.

NEXT STORY: To Speed Up Results, States Limit COVID-19 Testing

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