There has been a recent spike in Covid cases in west Georgetown since the new year, and data suggests that Georgetown University students are the primary drivers.
This conclusion comes from comparing data released by the city and data released by Georgetown University. Specifically, the city releases neighborhood level information on the number of positive Covid tests every day. And the university releases weekly information concerning its population.
The first thing to understand is that there has been a spike in Covid cases in west Georgetown since the New Year. Since then there have been 126 positive tests. This compares with 276 cases from the beginning of the crisis through to December 31st. And the increase has been concentrated in the the last two weeks, with 87 cases since January 27th. The seven day average positive rate per 10,000 people hit a peak on February 2nd with 9.3 (on a day when the citywide number was just 2.8). This put west Georgetown as, by far, the worst neighborhood in DC on that day, with it’s rate more than double the next worst neighborhood.
And the university’s data demonstrates that nearly all that spike can likely be attributed to students living in the neighborhood. Since the new year, there have been a total of 161 positive Covid tests among GU students living in the Georgetown, Burleith and Foxhall neighborhoods. And in the last two weeks there have been 144 positive cases:
You can see that the student positive result numbers have spiked over the same two week period that the overall west Georgetown numbers have spiked. And that appears to correlate with their return to classes after the winter break.
Obviously not all students living in Georgetown, Burleith, and Foxhall live in west Georgetown. But even when you expand the context, the numbers point towards GU students being at the very least an dramatically outsized driver of Covid numbers. GM understands that there are roughly 1,000 GU students living in the nearby neighborhoods this year. The city doesn’t release Covid data specifically for Burleith or Foxhall, but groups them in with Cathedral Heights and the Palisades/Kent, respectively. And these larger areas, coupled with Georgetown, have recorded 516 Covid positives since January 1st. So at 161 cases, GU students constitute 31% of all cases in this larger area. And this area has a total population of approximately 50,000 residents. Thus Georgetown students represent roughly 2% of the population of this expanded area. So with only 2% of the population, GU students are contributing nearly a third of all cases.
And GM thinks it’s fair to assume that most of those 1,000 students actually live close to the campus in Georgetown proper. There are approximately 15,000 people living in Georgetown. Even if all 1,000 students lived in Georgetown, they would constitute only 6.7% of the population, yet constitute over 60% of the Covid positive results.
Anyway you slice it, GU students appear to be the main contributors to a spike in Covid positive results in and around Georgetown, especially over the last several weeks.
It’s to GU’s credit that the school is publishing this data, even when it’s not terribly flattering. But GM thinks the school needs to do a better job discouraging its students from being so reckless in terms of social distancing and mask usage.