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With 6 new COVID-19 cases, Carroll County seeing low weekly total so far

With six newly confirmed COVID-19 cases announced Wednesday, the Carroll County Health Department is encouraged by a recent downward trend but carefully watching to see if it will continue.

All six new cases were among members of the community outside what the department describes as congregate living facilities, such as nursing homes. That raises the week’s total for community cases, from Sunday through Wednesday, to 16. At the same point last week, 32 had been announced.

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Last week, Carroll added a total of 53 community cases, down from 62 the week before. The week prior to that, the week of July 26, holds the record for highest weekly case total, with 109. The second-highest total to date is 97, set the week before that.

Before then, the peak had stood at 60 cases, during the week of April 5, since the early phases of the pandemic. The 14-day rolling average of new community cases has been declining since it hit a peak in late July, health department data show.

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“We are all happy to see cases go down, but of course we will have to see if the trends continue,” health department spokesperson Maggie Kunz said. “We expect to see guidance from the state about metrics to factor into consideration as well. So it’s a good trend, but we’re watching and waiting.”

Kunz said 107 COVID-19 tests were conducted Tuesday at the county’s testing site at the Carroll County Agriculture Center, indicating that testing capacity has returned to normal levels — possibly exceeding them. Testing capacity was cut about in half when the testing site was temporarily relocated starting on July 30, with fewer testing slots available.

The health department reported that 95 people were tested on Tuesday, Aug. 11, 102 were tested Thursday and 99 were tested Sunday. That’s in line with the approximately 300 tests that are typically seen in a week at the Ag Center testing site — compared with about 150 tests conducted over a week at the temporary location.

To make an appointment to get a test, the health department reminds residents that they should first contact their health care provider.

In all, Carroll has seen 1,613 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus — 934 from the community and 679 from county residents who work or live in congregate living facilities.

There have been 141 coronavirus-related fatalities in Carroll, 125 residents or staff of congregate living facilities and 16 among the wider community.

The health department now considers outbreaks at Westminster Healthcare Center and the Central Maryland Correctional Facility in Sykesville to be closed, meaning that at least 14 days have passed since the onset of the most recent case at each facility.

A total of 705 COVID-19 tests have now been administered at McDaniel College, up from 624 Tuesday. No additional positive tests were announced Wednesday, keeping the total at two cases.

The county’s positivity rate, or the rate at which tests of county residents return positive, through Aug. 18 is 1.35%, up from 1.2% the day before. That was Carroll’s lowest rate since the state began releasing that data on March 23, and the Aug. 18 rate is the second-lowest. The statewide rate is at 3.22%, just 0.01 of a percentage point above its lowest point, reached the day before.

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%.

Of the 934 community members to test positive in Carroll, 20 are younger than 10 years old; 91 are in the 10-19 range; 185 are 20-29 years old; 120 are 30-39; 148 are 40-49; 208 are 50-59; 103 are 60-69; 36 are 70-79; 22 are 80-89; and one is in their 90s. Women have accounted for 464 of the positive tests, and men 470.

According to health department data, Westminster has the most total cases in Carroll, with 545 across two ZIP codes, followed by Sykesville/Eldersburg with 429, Mount Airy with 208, Manchester with 116, Finksburg with 73, Hampstead with 65, Taneytown with 60, New Windsor with 36, Keymar with 28, Woodbine with 18, Marriottsville with 17 and Union Bridge with 16. Data is not released in ZIP codes with seven cases or fewer.

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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.

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