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Pest control is an essential job during stay-at-home orders. Here's what that means for DC rats

Mayor Muriel Bowser made clear that pest control employees are on the job as essential employees.

WASHINGTON — D.C. is working to combat the spread of the coronavirus by closing non-essential businesses -- bars and restaurants -- and cutting back Metro service after issuing a stay-at-home order. 

In a news conference Tuesday, one reporter asked about rats in the District and whether rats will find other places to go, like your house, now that restaurants are closed.

Mayor Muriel Bowser gave assurances that pest control workers are considered essential and are on the job right now.

It's a good thing, too. According to rodentologist Bobby Corrigan, rats are expected to go into "panic mode" during the COVID-19 closures and look for food in the streets around their usual areas. 

It's something that's already happening in New Orleans' French Quarter.

In recent years, D.C. has seen a spike in rat population, and has addressed the problem with "rat blitzes," rat abatement programs and other creative programs.

So far, 311 data shows this March has seen fewer calls compared to last year. About 450 calls for rodent inspection and treatment in March 2020 compared to March 2019, when there were more than 6,400 calls of that type. 

As the coronavirus continues to spread, we'll keep an eye on these calls for service.

In the meantime, Bowser stressed pest control workers continue to do their job in the District.

"Yes, they are working," she said.

RELATED: The DC Rat Map: See which neighborhoods call the most for rodent relief

RELATED: DC called about rats 6,434 times in 2019. We mapped out all of them

RELATED: New program enlists wild cats from DC to help with growing rat problem

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