After summer months with low COVID-19 cases, Anne Arundel County is once again considered an area with a high risk of transmission as the more contagious delta variant of the coronavirus spreads across Maryland.
The county case rate continues to steadily rise, moving to a high risk area over the weekend, as the virus spreads, reaching 17 cases per 100,000 people Tuesday, the highest rate since April. In June and early July, the case rate hovered below 1 until cases started to climb in mid-July. Anne Arundel County also reported 81 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours.
Hospitals have seen an uptick in patients sick with COVID-19, most of whom are infected with the delta variant that accounts for the majority of new county cases, county health officer Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman said Tuesday.
There are currently 55 people receiving treatment Tuesday at Anne Arundel Medical Center or University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center. Two months ago, less than five patients required treatment between the two hospitals. Six people died the week ending on Aug. 22, the most virus-related deaths the county has seen in three months.
“The delta variant is pretty much the vast of almost all the cases in the state at this point. There are a few other variants circulating, but over 90% of the cases are delta that we’re sequencing,” Kalyanaraman said.
The vast majority of people who are hospitalized are unvaccinated, Kalyanaraman said, and those who are vaccinated and hospitalized have underlying health conditions.
County health officials are watching hospitalizations closely while pushing for hesitant residents to get vaccinated, and with the added assurance the Pfizer/BioNTech is now fully approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The Anne Arundel County Health Department vaccinated nearly 653 people over the last 24 hours.
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The added inoculations mean over 50% of eligible Anne Arundel County residents have received one shot, and nearly 55% are fully vaccinated. There are 330,027 residents total who received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. Statewide, more than 3,678,839 people are fully vaccinated, about 80% of Maryland’s population of residents above 18 years old.
On Monday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s gave full approval of the first COVID-19 vaccine. The approval set the stage for more immunization mandates in Maryland school systems, workplaces and businesses. The Pfizer/BioNTech messenger RNA vaccine received emergency use authorization by the FDA eight months ago. Full approval applies to vaccines for people age 16 and over. Kids 12 to 15 can still receive it under the agency’s emergency authorization provision, and younger children remain ineligible to receive any of the three vaccines available in the United States.
County Executive Steuart Pittman announced all county employees are required to get vaccine for COVID-19 or show proof of a negative test on a weekly basis starting Sept. 14. Pittman also reinstated a mandate earlier this month that people who enter county buildings must wear a mask.
“The delta variant has hit us at a time where we’re thought we were close to being through this and back to normal,” Pittman said during a weekly media call. “This is not something that we can control. It was something that we were warned about by our public health folks — that if we didn’t get vaccinated quickly enough, that these variants would continue to mutate, to be created, and this one is certainly moving fast.”
The delta variant of COVID-19 is infecting children and requiring inpatient pediatric treatment more than previous waves of the pandemic. As children prepare to return to class, county schools require students, teachers and staff to wear masks inside school buildings. The county school board is expected to debate whether to change Superintendent George Arlotto’s mask order during a Sept. 1 board meeting.
Bob Mosier, spokesperson for Anne Arundel County Public Schools, said during a media call Tuesday the school system is discussing whether to require teachers and staff to get a COVID-19 vaccine now that Pfizer/BioNTech has full FDA approval.