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Top Carroll County health official says recent COVID-19 testing is down, shares new data points; 11 cases reported

The Carroll County Health Department announced a total of 11 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, continuing a pace slower than what was seen the previous two weeks, though the county’s top health official said reduced testing might be influencing that decline.

Community members living outside of nursing homes and other congregate living facilities accounted for nine of those new cases, according to the health department. The number of community cases peaked last week, with 109, and there were 97 the week prior.

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But this week has, so far, trended behind the pace set by those two weeks, with 41 community cases having been announced — compared with 72 at the same point last week. Last Thursday, July 30, 12 new community cases were announced.

One possible factor for that decrease, County Health Officer Ed Singer said in the Board of County Commissioners’ Thursday meeting, is lower-than-normal testing capacity.

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The COVID-19 testing site run by the health department was relocated from the Carroll County Agriculture Center to accommodate the Carroll County 4-H & FFA Fair, though it is expected to reopen on Aug. 11. Testing was not offered Sunday, Aug. 2, as it would have been at the Ag Center, and testing will not be offered Sunday, Aug. 9 either.

“The number of tests that we were able to provide the community was slightly reduced this week, so we may see an artificial decrease in the number of cases reported this week just because our testing capacity in the county was somewhat reduced,” Singer said. When testing does return to the Ag Center, he added, the health department hopes to opening more slots for testing.

In the commissioners’ meeting, Singer also presented data that showed more detail relating to the recent community case increases, along with other figures.

A graph of the 14-day rolling average for community cases shows sharp, nearly uninterrupted increases since the end of June. That figure had peaked in mid-May but is now close to double that level.

Another graph shows that several age groups have seen increases in confirmed cases among community members, led by 18-to-29-year-olds. That group went from just under 10 cases the week of July 12 to nearly 40 the next week, then 45 the week after that. For comparison, no age group had a weekly rate above five cases during the weeks of June 7, 14 and 21.

In all, Carroll has seen 1,512 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus — 844 from the community and 668 from county residents who work or live in congregate living facilities.

Residents of Brinton Woods Health and Rehab Center at Winfield accounted for the two other cases announced Thursday, bringing that facility’s resident case total to 37, nine of whom have died; six staffers, two of whom live in Carroll, have also contracted the virus. Because of those new cases, the health department again considers it to have an active outbreak, for the first time since July 9.

Congregate living facilities were the sites of Carroll’s sharpest spikes of cases earlier in the pandemic — as well as almost all deaths seen so far, with 125 of 140 — but the pace of new facility cases has slowed to a crawl in recent weeks.

Deaths have also been moving in a downward direction since May, according to data Singer presented to the commissioners. The death toll the week of May 24 was 18, the highest seen over the course of a single week. The following week saw half that, and the weekly total hasn’t risen above five since then.

Of those Carroll countians whose deaths have been attributed to COVID-19, none were younger than 40 years old, according to data Singer presented Thursday. Nearly all deaths were among people 60 years or older. The age group with the largest share of Carroll’s deaths attributed to COVID-19 was those 80-89 years old, with 51 total.

Of those who have been hospitalized as a result of COVID-19, there is a wider spread among age groups, but most have been 60 or older, according to data Singer presented Thursday. Of 227 total hospitalizations for the virus so far, 161, or about 71%, were among people 60 or older. Those who are between 40 and 59 years old accounted for 46 hospitalizations, or about 20%, and those younger than 40 represented 20 hospitalizations, or about 9%.

Carroll County’s positivity rate, or the rate at which tests of county residents return positive, declined for the fifth consecutive report, to 2.02%. That’s the lowest it has been since July 18, when it was that same percentage. The rate is reported as a seven-day rolling average based on data from the Maryland Department of Health. The statewide rate dropped slightly Thursday to 4.03%.

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The World Health Organization recommends that there be a positivity rate below 5% for two weeks before governments take steps to reopen, and 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%.

The number of residents who have recovered from the disease increased by 12 for the second straight day, to 632.

Of the 844 community members to test positive in Carroll, 16 are younger than 10 years old; 83 are in the 10-19 range; 169 are 20-29 years old; 112 are 30-39; 133 are 40-49; 184 are 50-59; 95 are 60-69; 31 are 70-79; 20 are 80-89; and one is in their 90s.

Women have accounted for 416 of the positive tests, and men 428.

According to health department data, Westminster has the most cases in Carroll, with 514 across two ZIP codes, followed by Sykesville/Eldersburg with 408, Mount Airy with 201, Manchester with 106, Finksburg with 66, Hampstead with 64, Taneytown with 53, Keymar with 28, New Windsor with 27, Woodbine with 17, and Marriottsville and Union Bridge with 13 each. Data is not released in ZIP codes with seven cases or fewer.

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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