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In a 4-Month Sample, D.C. Traces 14 Percent of COVID-19 ‘Outbreaks’ to Restaurants

Figures the city released show clusters of cases at bars and restaurants were on par with childcare centers

Signs on the door of a D.C. restaurant tell diners to wear a mask inside
Xinhua/Liu Jie via Getty Images

The D.C. government has released a new set of COVID-19 data — the first to arrange clusters of cases by setting — that shows restaurants and bars are among the most common environments where the virus spreads.

The new report defines an “outbreak” as an instance when two or more cases of COVID-19 are reported at a location within a 14-day period. According to tracing data collected by the city from August 1 through November 26, there were 15 outbreaks by this definition traced back to restaurants and bars. That represents 13.8 percent of the city’s outbreaks over that time period, the same figure as childcare and daycare centers. Only K-12 schools (with 19 outbreaks) and colleges and universities (with 30 outbreaks) accounted for more. Food retail businesses saw nine outbreaks (8.3 percent) in the nearly four-month period.

For higher education facilities, the city’s study included whole campuses, all affiliated buildings, and off-campus housing. For other schools, the city considered activities in main buildings as well as community service and sporting events. For more on the city’s methodology, go here.

D.C. Government

D.C. released its outbreak statistics Monday, December, 7, the same day Mayor Muriel Bowser announced a suspension on high school sports and high-contact sports for adults, including basketball, soccer, and boxing, at city parks and recreation centers.

In response to a spike in coronavirus cases that continues to set records for seven-day averages, D.C. recently moved to tighten its reopening restrictions on bars and restaurants. As of Wednesday, November 25, those businesses were ordered to cut off all alcohol sales and consumption by 10 p.m., sharply decreasing their earning potential over the last two hours they’re allowed to stay open during the public health emergency.

Starting Monday, December 14, D.C. restaurants must operate at 25 percent capacity indoors, a rollback from the 50 percent limit that went into place on June 22. Over the past week, D.C. has recorded 252 new cases, representing a 40 percent rise. COVID-19 has killed three District residents in that time period.