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5 COVID-19 cases added in Carroll County, smallest daily total since mid-July

On the same day the Carroll County commissioners again extended the state of emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Carroll County Health Department announced the smallest number of new cases in about a month.

The five cases reported by the health department Thursday represent the lowest daily increase since July 15, when only four new cases were confirmed. Three of the five cases were among members of the community outside of what the county defines as congregate living facilities, such as nursing homes or group homes.

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Community cases reached new heights three weeks ago, but case totals have been declining this week and last. So far this week, from Sunday through Wednesday, 31 community cases have been announced, compared with 41 at the same point last week. On Aug. 6, 11 new community cases were announced.

Last week, a total of 62 community cases were confirmed, barely exceeding the weekly record that stood from the week of April 5 until the week of July 19, when there were 97 community cases. The week after that saw an even higher total, 109. A health department spokesperson said Thursday that two cases announced this week had lab reports dated back to last week, retroactively raising the total to 62.

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It’s not yet clear whether the numbers of new positive cases have been declining because of reduced testing. The county’s testing site at the Carroll County Agriculture Center was temporarily relocated to Friendship Valley Elementary School to accommodate the Carroll County 4-H & FFA Fair, and Tuesday was only the first day that full testing capacity has been offered since July 28.

On Tuesday, 95 people were tested, according to the health department, but testing figures for the second day the Ag Center site was open, Thursday, were not immediately available.

County Health Officer Ed Singer has said about 150 tests were conducted at the temporary location last week, whereas before the relocation the Ag Center would typically see close to 300 tests in a week.

With little discussion Thursday, the Board of County Commissioners unanimously voted to extend the state of emergency by 30 days, until at least Sept. 15.

Although the topic has been a subject of debate among the commissioners in the past, board President Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, said he did not think it was necessary to debate it further, and the other commissioners did not disagree.

The other two cases announced Thursday stemmed from congregate living facilities, according to the health department.

Another resident at Brinton Woods Health and Rehab Center at Winfield tested positive, bringing that facility’s residents case total to 38, nine of whom have died. Six staffers, two of whom live in Carroll, also have tested positive.

And the other case stemmed from a facility with fewer than 10 residents, so the health department is declining to release the facility’s name, citing guidance from the state health department.

Congregate living facilities accounted for Carroll’s sharpest spikes of cases earlier in the pandemic, but the pace of new facility cases has slowed to a crawl in the past month. Those facilities have accounted for 125 of the 140 deaths Carroll has seen attributed to COVID-19, though no such deaths have been announced since Aug. 3.

In all, Carroll has seen 1,569 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus — 893 from the community and 676 from county residents who work or live in congregate living facilities.

Carroll County’s positivity rate, or the rate at which tests of county residents return positive, stayed below 2% for the sixth straight day. The rate, 1.54% as of Wednesday, is reported as a seven-day rolling average based on data from the Maryland Department of Health. The statewide rate dropped slightly to 3.49%.

The World Health Organization recommends that there be a positivity rate below 5% for two weeks before governments take steps to reopen. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that states wait until they have 14 days of positivity rates under 10%, with an average of two days or less for the return of test results, before initiating a third reopening phase. Carroll’s positivity rate has been below 5% since June 5, when it was 6.33%.

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Singer told the Carroll County Board of Education on Wednesday night that the positivity rate can be a somewhat unreliable measure. Some people get tested for a job, others get tested before going to college or on a trip, and some even get a test because they are curious — because these people were not sick and were not expecting to test positive, he said, that can skew the numbers.

“Our positivity rate is going down a lot. That’s a good thing, but I don’t really think that tells the story,” Singer said.

Of the 893 community members to test positive in Carroll, 19 are younger than 10 years old; 86 are in the 10-19 range; 176 are 20-29 years old; 117 are 30-39; 145 are 40-49; 198 are 50-59; 99 are 60-69; 31 are 70-79; 21 are 80-89; and one is in their 90s. Women have accounted for 439 of the positive tests, and men 454.

According to health department data, Westminster has the most cases in Carroll, with 531 across two ZIP codes, followed by Sykesville/Eldersburg with 420, Mount Airy with 204, Manchester with 114, Finksburg with 70, Hampstead with 65, Taneytown with 57, New Windsor with 32, Keymar with 28, Woodbine with 17, Union Bridge with 16 and Marriottsville with 13. Data is not released in ZIP codes with seven cases or fewer.

The number of residents that the health department has announced who have recovered from the disease remained at 647. The number of announced hospitalizations also stayed the same, at 102.

Anyone who thinks they or a family member might be showing coronavirus symptoms can call the hotline between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 410-876-4848, or contact their doctor. After hours, callers may leave a message or call 211. People with emergencies should continue to call 911.

Times reporter Mary Grace Keller contributed to this article.

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