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Carroll County officials on board with Maryland goal for COVID-19 testing but not trying to meet ‘quota’

The Maryland Department of Health on Thursday announced a goal of testing 10% of the population in each jurisdiction for COVID-19, and while Carroll County officials say they’re committed to providing testing, the local health department does not see demand warranting another testing center.

“I want to help achieve what the state’s goal is of reaching 10%,” said Ed Singer, the county’s health officer. He said the Carroll County Health Department supports testing those who need or want to be tested, but “we’re not just going to try to meet a quota.”

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Carroll County has tested 6.7% of its population thus far, according to Singer. As of Thursday, Carroll County has seen 1,028 cases and 121 fatalities, with a positivity rate of 2.03%, according to the county health department.

Only three counties — Somerset, Wicomico and Dorchester — have reached the 10% mark as of Thursday, according to state data. Queen Anne’s, Garrett, Cecil and Calvert counties are all beneath 5%. Baltimore City has a testing rate of 8.5%, while Baltimore County has tested 7.9% of its population, Howard County is at 6.9%, Anne Arundel County is at 5.9% and Harford County is at 5.7%. The state will begin releasing these metrics daily.

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The Carroll County Agriculture Center opened as a state testing site May 14. Singer said Thursday the demand for testing there has not been great enough to warrant expanding that type of testing system.

“If the demand were there, we would certainly look at doing it,” he said.

As of June 9, 272 COVID-19 tests had been administered at the Ag Center, according to Maggie Kunz, a health department spokesperson. The Ag Center testing site is open Thursdays from 1 to 4 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Carroll Hospital is also providing testing.

“We’re certainly encouraging people to be tested at our site,” Singer said, but part of the challenge is getting people who want to be tested. “It’s not like we’re not making the opportunity available to people.”

The county has worked to simplify the process of getting tested through an online form available at https://cchd.maryland.gov/covid-19-testing-in-carroll-county/, Kunz said, and an order from a health care provider’s is not required.

“Now that more testing supplies are available, we are encouraging people to get tested if they have been working in close contact with others, attended a large gathering, or need to be tested to return to work or for other reasons,” she said.

Kunz also said the health department is “working with local businesses and organizations who want to offer testing to large groups.”

Board of County Commissioners President Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, believes the 10% goal is good for the county.

“I think another 3% is certainly realistic,” he said, adding the county will do whatever it can to help the state reach that goal.

Wantz and Singer encouraged residents to continue following health and safety guidelines, such as wearing masks and practicing social distancing.

“Bottom line for me is I continue to be challenged with the fact that I see people being complacent,” Wantz said.

Singer doesn’t want people to panic, nor does he want them to abandon caution. He said it’s about protecting one another.

“It’s not all about you,” Singer said. “It’s about trying to do the responsible thing from a society standpoint.”

Singer invited people to call the Carroll County Health Department’s COVID-19 hotline at 410-876-4848, which is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. After hours, people can leave a message that will be returned the next business day.

If someone does not have a primary care physician to give them a recommendation to be tested, Singer said they can call the hotline and the health department will help them. He also said employers who want their staff to be tested can reach out. Any place where people live or work closely together could be a concern for a potential outbreak, Singer said.

Baltimore Sun reporter Nathan Ruiz contributed to this article.

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