Even with COVID-19 cases falling nationwide, Maryland continued to fare better than most other states in October in terms of virus metrics.

But the story isn’t the same in all parts of the state. In Western Maryland’s Garrett County, for instance, the number of reported cases soared mid-month.


Here are five main takeaways from the month’s COVID-19 data:

Most key COVID-19 metrics improved in Maryland during October.

After sinking to incredible lows, Maryland’s COVID cases spiked in August due to the spread of the more contagious delta variant, and virtually flatlined in September.


During October, the delta wave appeared to recede.

By Halloween, the 14-day average caseload was back where it was in early May, hovering around 750 new cases daily. The positivity rate, which inched past 5% during delta’s surge, was dropping to 3% by October’s end. Plus, more than 200 fewer people were hospitalized with the virus on the 31st than on the first day of the month.

Testing increased in October even though COVID-19 wasn’t spreading as quickly.

On average, Marylanders took more than 35,000 COVID-19 tests per day in October, the highest value for any month since January.

It’s an indication that even as COVID-19 cases slowed, Marylanders were tested more frequently for the virus.

At least one school system — Baltimore City — has a system in place to test students and staff once a week, and other institutions, such as state prisons and hospitals, have instituted requirements that employees be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing.

Maryland is still doing better than most of the United States.

Maryland’s seven-day average case rate — about 12 per 100,000 people — is the sixth lowest of any state, according to New York Times data. Some of the states with better rates now, including Florida and Georgia, experienced far more serious summer surges of the virus as a result of the delta variant.

Although cases in Maryland increased sharply during August and September, the numbers never surpassed the pandemic-high daily case counts from January.

Maryland remains among the top 10 most vaccinated states, with 66.8% of residents fully vaccinated, according to state figures.

COVID-19 vaccination rates and case rates differ from county to county — sometimes starkly

As of Oct. 31, Garrett County’s seven-day average case rate — nearly 80 cases per 100,000 people — was more than six times the state average.

Maryland’s westernmost county is also the state’s least vaccinated. As of Monday, 41.4% of Garrett County residents had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, compared to more than two-thirds of all Maryland residents.

In a news release last week, Garrett County health officer Bob Stephens said residents avoiding the vaccine were being “foolish” and should talk with their doctors about getting inoculated.

“Businesses are closing and cutting back hours not because of any mandates, but because they have staff who are sick or quarantined,” he wrote. “In addition, hospital and nursing home staff are working long hours to meet the high demands brought on by the added burden of COVID.”

Other rural counties, many with vaccination rates at or below 50%, are also struggling with higher case loads than the rest of the state, including Allegany County, Garrett’s neighbor to the east, and several on the Eastern Shore.

In October, COVID-19 cases increased more sharply among children than adults.

Between the first day of October and the last, the total number of COVID-19 cases among children 9 years old and younger increased 11% — the biggest jump of any nine-year age group. Among Marylanders 10-19, cases rose 7%.

For the vast majority of the pandemic, no children were receiving acute or intensive care in Maryland hospitals due to a COVID-19 diagnosis. But in early September, as many as 15 children were receiving such care. That trend continued in October. Every day of the month, at least three children were receiving acute or intensive care for COVID-19 at once, and as many as 14 at a time.

For many children, October was the second month in a long-awaited return to in-person schooling. But all those under 12 years old remained ineligible for vaccination.

As of Wednesday, there were COVID-19 outbreaks in more than 100 Maryland schools, according to state data. Five middle and high schools in St. Mary’s County had the highest tallies, with 50 to 100 cases each.

On Friday, the Food and Drug Administration approved smaller doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children 5 to 11 years old. Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control panel is expected to issue a final recommendation for which young children should be vaccinated.

Unvaccinated Marylanders continue to bear the brunt of the pandemic. Although “breakthrough infections” causing fully vaccinated people to be hospitalized or die from COVID-19 have increased over time, in part because of waning immunity, unvaccinated people still make up 88.1% of all COVID-19 hospitalizations in Maryland and 87.3% of all deaths.