By Southwester Staff
Southwest became the home to Washington’s latest mass vaccination site on April 5 when Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that Arena Stage would be helping get shots in arms. The theater is partnering with DC Health and MedStar Health to run the high-capacity vaccination site, which opened on Friday, April 9.
“Arena Stage is so happy to be asked to play this role for our community,” said Arena Stage Executive Producer Edgar Dobie in the theater’s press release from April 5. Dobie said Arena Stage promises “everyone a warm and gracious greeting” when they come for their vaccine.
A staff member at the site told The Southwester that some 800 people per day were receiving vaccinations. Though people without appointments were allowed to line up at the end of the day to claim unused vaccines, shots expiring has not been an issue at Arena Stage.
As of April 9, 251,136 Washingtonians had been at least partially vaccinated, or 387,862 total doses administered. Southwest and Waterfront had administered vaccinations to 15.6% of its residents, while Ward 6 as a whole was 17% vaccinated. The vaccine had been most widely administered in Barnaby Woods (30%) and Union Station (23%).
Arena Stage was using the single-shot Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine, though not exclusively. On April 13, though, the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended a halt in the administration of the one-shot vaccine after six recipients reportedly developed blood clots. Some 7.2 million Americans had received the J&J vaccine. According to the staff member on site, the Arena Stage vaccination site had already planned on using their stock of shots from other drug makers before the pause was announced.
Ward 6, in which Southwest and Navy Yard are located, had seen 6,188 total COVID-19 cases as of April 19, according to the city government’s “COVID-19 Surveillance” webpage. However, it had also administered the most total tests, with 245,174 compared to Ward 2’s 208,694. Ward 2 had administered the second highest number of tests after Ward 6. It wasn’t clear at the time this article was written whether the tests taken by Capitol Hill staffers and other federal employees – many of whom don’t reside in Ward 6 – are counted in these statistics.
According to an Associated Press report from November 2020, Attending Physician Brian Monahan mandated all travelers to DC must have negative COVID-19 tests to be compliant with Mayor Bowser’s decrees. The House of Representatives was making tests available to all members and staff at that time.
While Ward 6 has boasted high numbers of COVID-19 tests, Southwest itself has lacked an official permanent COVID-19 testing site throughout most of the pandemic. Apart from pop-up testing sites, the closest official testing location was at Nationals Stadium. At-home kits and other testing options have been available for those who can afford them.
On April 5, Mayor Bowser also announced the vaccine clinic at the Convention Center was expanding through a partnership with grocery chain Safeway. The grocery chain has been offering vaccine appointments for months and is partnering with the city at additional locations, including Langdon Park Community Center.