Reopen because... huh?

DC, Maryland, and Virginia have sustained daily case rates. So why should we reopen?


Ben Pugh

May 12, 2020

Reopen the DMV because... huh?

Coronavirus-- never, not even in the past election cycles, have we ever felt so uninformed on a topic that is brought up hourly. For 60 days and counting.

We asked a few friends over the weekend "how close are we to reopening?" The answers came in one of two forms: either "something's gotta give" or "no clue." And it shouldn't be a surprise when the news cycle has been literally all over the place. Virginia announces reopening. Not so fast. DC announces things are better than expected, but also simultaneously announces new emergency test sites are being rolled out weekly, and how it might not be enough. South Korea beat it. Wait maybe not. And also the United States president walked out on his own press briefing.

We are starting this series to have an open discussion about what reopening looks like. We hope this is based on facts and reasoning but grounded in the reality of the daily tradeoffs of having a 20% unemployment rate. If nothing else, we are hoping to organize our own thoughts and gather facts where we can.

We put together the first view of all DC, MD, and VA counties surrounding DC. While each jurisdiction needs to look after its own residents first, a coordinated reopening plan is crucial

Why DMV? (DC-Maryland-Virginia)

When reading about COVID19, it's very easy to feel like "that doesn't apply to me." California is not New York is not Utah is not DC is not Kentucky is not Pennsylvania. We all have the proximity bias.

We chose DMV for two reasons: 1. we think it's a unique case of a high density area with multiple adjacent jurisdictions (DC, Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax, Prince George's, Frederick, and a few more) that all have a single shared destiny and 2. we live here.

In the future, we might write about more geographies in detail. The depth lessons learned here can probably be applied elsewhere. But we wanted to go deep in one area, rather than autogenerate 51 graphs.


Update 10:50am: DC has released numbers for May 11, including 96 new positive cases (Not shown in the graphs below) This represents a continued downward trend for DC specifically, but the region itself still faces the same predicament.

DC Gov has done a fantastic job in terms of engaging the public with their COVID-19 efforts. Mayor Muriel Bowser has held nearly daily press briefings and outreach with nearly every group imaginable. Even though many operational challenges exist and continue to exist (relief funding for a non-state, for example), there is at least a sense of "being up front" as we go. At least I felt that way as a listener.

Recent daily reports in DC represent a downard trend, keeping new daily covid19 reports to a level roughly similar to where it was 1 month ago. This feels like a really good thing.

The story changes slightly when you expand the reports to cover all nearby areas. Daily case rate is a little over double what it was 1 month ago.

Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfaix, Prince George's and Montgomery county, and a few other neighboring counties. While each community has its own thriving residents, it's hard for any of us to imagine a reopened world in which goods and services don't fluidly flow between these regions.

Our biggest "question-mark" is how can DC succeed if Northern Virginia or Maryland is still rapidly increasing, and vice versa?

Stay Informed

We took our aggregated view and built it into our app. Our new dashboard shows you new Covid-19 reports near you based on official government reports, and also where you can get tested. Over the weekend, we also included both paid and free public options for covid19 testing.

What's Next

Let us know what you think! There are more sides to this than just reported case counts. Do you think NoVA, MD, and DC are ready to reopen? Let us know.

Next week we will talk about what "sufficient" capacity looks like. Stay tuned.

Find Free COVID-19 Testing Sites. Only on RelayCare.

DC, Maryland, and Virgina



Ben Pugh

Founder & CEO, RelayCare

Ben is a mathematician and self-taught full-stack software engineer.