D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the city will start asking residents seeking COVID-19 tests for their insurance information as the District ramps up testing to confront a worsening crisis that could force a rollback of reopening "soon."
Coronavirus tests will be given for free to anyone who seeks one, regardless of whether they have insurance, Bowser said.
Starting Monday, the city will begin collecting insurance information from patients at COVID-19 testing sites in D.C. Those without insurance will not be turned away and no copay will be required for a test.
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But residents with insurance will be asked to provide information so the city can get reimbursed for the cost of the test. You can note your insurance information when you pre-register for your test.
The city is averaging between 3,500 to 4,200 tests per day. Long lines have been spotted at the city's public coronavirus testing sites.
"We anticipate those numbers will still increase," said Chris Geldart, Director of the Department of Public Works. "As of today, we have enough testing materials to do the testing we need to do."
Starting Nov. 23, a large, new coronavirus testing site at Nationals Park is expected to expand access and also provide a more weather-proof set up as winter approaches.
The site will be in the GEICO Garage at 16 N Street SE and open from Monday to Friday from 2:30-7:30 p.m.
Test sites will be closed on Thanksgiving, but several will open for extra hours on the following Sunday. On Nov. 29, four sites at fire house Engines 4, 8, 10 and 31 will open noon to 4 p.m.
Hours will also be expanded at public testing sites starting Monday. Residents may notice larger tents with heaters. Here's more information on when and where to get tested.
According to Geldart, testing turnaround time remains in the three to five day window, but wait times have gotten a little longer.
The expansion of testing comes as the city grapples with a major surge in coronavirus cases and overall worsening health crisis.
New restrictions could be implemented "soon," Bowser said.
Many have asked why D.C. hasn't followed Virginia and Maryland in tightening restrictions. Bowser says it's because the city didn't allow as much reopening.
“We’ve never gone to phase three. We’ve never had bars open. We never had spectators at sporting events, for example. So, we’ve kind of been very steady at phase two," she said.
But the city likely won't be able to maintain that posture, Bowser says. She wants to take steps that will drive cases down as winter arrives.
"Our business owners, our social gatherings, people can expect that we won’t be able to maintain this level [of restrictions]," Bowser said.
To help mitigate the "economic disaster" caused by coronavirus-related shutdowns, Bowser said D.C. will distribute $100 million to businesses through a program called The Bridge Fund.
The funding includes $35 million for restaurants, $30 million for hotels, $20 million for entertainment businesses and $15 million for retailers. Hotels will be first in line to apply, then application periods will open for other sectors.
The grants could help up to 1,815 small businesses with amounts ranging from $4,000 to $270,750.
“The Bridge Fund will focus on strategic investments in the hard-hit sectors so that we can support workers to help businesses make it to the other side of this crisis," Bowser said.