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Key metric languishes, revealing challenges in containing virus as D.C. region takes steps to reopen

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Key metric languishes, revealing challenges in containing virus as D.C. region takes steps to reopen

A pedestrian passes by the main gate of the National Zoo shortly after it closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. The zoo will reopen Friday. (Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post) The Washington region’s gradual reopening took another step Monday when the National Zoo announced it would reopen, as health experts urged caution while watching regional daily caseloads of the novel coronavirus nearly double in recent weeks.

The Smithsonian Institution’s National Zoo and the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia will welcome visitors Friday for the first time since mid-March. The announcement came on the same day the District’s top health official released data showing that the city is nowhere near putting a lid on community transmission of a virus that has increased its rate of spread across the region.

The District’s health department published a key metric for the first time Monday and revealed that the number is dismal: The percentage of new coronavirus cases linked to already known cases is just 2.8 percent.

The city’s goal is 60 percent, which would indicate that the nation’s capital is capable of tracking the spread of the virus and that cases are closely linked. For now, the tiny percentage indicates that the virus is still spreading widely in the community without contact tracers being able to tell enough close contacts of sick people to quarantine as they are exposed.

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The small number means the vast majority of people contracting the virus aren’t aware of contacts with someone who had it.

LaQuandra Nesbitt, the city’s health director, said the District will consider bringing back some restrictions on business or social activities to try […]

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