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D.C., White House officials begin talks on contact-tracing efforts after outbreak

Bowser (D) on Wednesday said the White House and D.C. Health Director LaQuandra Nesbitt discussed contact tracing Tuesday, although it wasn’t clear what action might emerge from the talks.

“I can tell you that Dr. Nesbitt asked them about their processes. She shared with them our capabilities and how we could be supportive, as well, and I suspect that that dialogue will continue,” she said.

Bowser said Monday the city reached out to the White House last week about the outbreak but had received no response.

Asked Wednesday about the outbreak that involves more than a dozen people — including President Trump, first lady Melania Trump, several aides and journalists — Bowser said officials are “concerned about the spread of covid-19 in our city, regardless of where it happened.”

She encouraged anyone who works at the White House who thinks they might have been exposed to the virus to get tested at a city-operated testing location, a private doctor or through the White House.

“All D.C. residents should recognize that D.C. Health protects their information, and so D.C. Health will not talk about a specific White House staffer to anybody,” Bowser said.

In a phone call Wednesday with members of the D.C. Council, Nesbitt said she expects to have more discussions with White House officials about the outbreak.

“They have clarified for us what their contact-tracing process is, and our conversations will continue to be ongoing to ensure that we are getting all of the information that is necessary and the contact tracing and testing infrastructure is sufficient to capture everything that needs to be done,” she said.

During the call, Nesbitt noted that of 246 recent interviews with D.C. residents who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, 22 percent contracted it at a workplace, 13 percent while traveling, 19 percent at a restaurant and 22 percent at a social gathering.

The Rose Garden event Sept. 26 suspected of being at the center of the outbreak came as D.C.’s seven-day rolling average of new cases dropped below 40 this month, the lowest since early July. The rolling average of new cases stood at 53 on Wednesday — the highest since Sept. 17 — stemming mostly from a one-day spike Tuesday of 105 additional cases.

The 45 new D.C. cases announced Wednesday was near the city’s recent average, while the 1,014 new daily cases reported across the greater Washington region was the lowest since Sept. 28.

D.C. officials have said Tuesday’s jump could be the result of a backlog of more than 8,000 coronavirus test results the city recently received on a single day, rather than having any White House connection. Health officials said they are looking for trends in new infections but have warned against drawing conclusions after a single-day increase.

The growing spotlight on the White House outbreak has led to a rise in residents seeking coronavirus tests this week, with numbers up at the city’s free testing sites.

The region’s Democratic congressional delegation sent a letter Tuesday