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Carroll County leaders launch campaign promoting masks to prevent COVID-19 spread; 8 new cases confirmed

On Thursday, the same day eight new COVID-19 cases in Carroll County were announced, a coalition of county leaders issued a joint statement “strongly recommending” that locals continue to wear face coverings to help mitigate the virus’ spread.

The eight new cases reported by the Carroll County Health Department were all among members of the community outside congregate living facilities, continuing a recent trend.

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About half of the county’s cases and the majority of its deaths have occurred in those facilities, which include nursing homes and correctional facilities, but no new cases have been confirmed in them since July 6. However, all 30 of the new cases reported in Carroll this week have been among members of the wider community. The county has now seen 1,221 cases in total.

No new deaths attributed to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, have been announced in Carroll since July 10, when two were reported. The total stands at 132. Of those, 118 of which were tied to congregate living facilities.

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The campaign announced Thursday, called Carroll Forward, is supported by Carroll County government, the Carroll County Health Department, Carroll Hospital, the Office of the State’s Attorney of Carroll County, the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, Carroll County Public Schools and the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce. They urge residents and visitors to wear face coverings in all indoor public spaces “and any time social distancing is difficult.”

“By following the guidance of health experts, we can help protect all people, regardless of known or unknown personal circumstances. We believe anything that helps slow the spread of COVID-19 is helpful and the possible benefits to wearing face coverings will outweigh any downsides. Everyone should err on the side of caution and make every effort to protect themselves and others to reduce the possibility of spreading COVID-19,” Board of County Commissioners President Stephen Wantz said in a news release, speaking on behalf of Commissioners Ed Rothstein, Richard Weaver and Dennis Frazier.

Notably, Commissioner Eric Bouchat — who penned an opinion column that questioned the value of wearing masks in public and was published in the Times on Tuesday — was absent from the statement.

The Thursday release cites guidance from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention noting that COVID-19 can even be spread by asymptomatic people who aren’t aware they’re carrying the virus. And it notes that face coverings can help prevent droplets from spreading in the air through coughing, sneezing, talking, singing or shouting.

“Wearing a cloth face covering properly — covering your nose and mouth and fitting it snugly on your face — is one of the most important actions we can take to protect our community,” Ed Singer, Carroll County health officer, said in the release. “We are receiving numerous complaints about locations not enforcing the use of face coverings and many reports of people wearing masks only covering their mouths. Covering both the mouth and nose is critically important for the coverings to be effective.”

Garrett Hoover, Carroll Hospital president and COO, echoed that in the release, saying that “Ensuring the safety of our patients and staff while supporting the health of our community are our highest priorities and during this pandemic encouraging residents to wear face masks whether they are indoors or outdoors is one of the most effective ways to care for each other and our community.”

The release lists the following as effective measures to prevent COVID-19 spread in addition to wearing masks:

  • Staying home when sick.
  • Social distancing 6 feet or more from others.
  • Washing your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds, or using hand sanitizer.
  • Not touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Frequently wiping down high-touch surfaces such as door knobs, counters and phones.
  • Planning outdoor activities rather than indoor activities.
  • Avoiding large gatherings.

“This work can’t be done by one agency or group — we need our whole community to be a part of these efforts, to protect each other, and to build resilience and strength across all ages, races, and levels of socioeconomic and health status,” Singer said. “This pandemic is a huge challenge, but also a chance to grow as a community.”

Health department spokeperson Maggie Kunz said the Carroll Forward campaign has been in the works throughout the pandemic, which first arrived in Carroll in mid-March. It will spotlight ways Carroll residents can collaborate to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, according to the release.

The Carroll Forward website, at carrollcountymd.gov/carrollforward, includes messages from community leaders and links to more information and resources about COVID-19. The release says the initiative will grow over time.

No new COVID-19 cases have been confirmed at congregate living facilities since July 6. That total stands at 649.

The Carroll County Health Department now considers a localized outbreak at Flying Colors Group Home to be closed, meaning at least 14 days have passed since the onset of the most recent case there.

The county’s positivity rate, or the rate at which tests of Carroll residents return positive, climbed slightly after a six-day downward trend. The positivity rate, 1.94% through July 15, is reported as a seven-day rolling average based on data from the Maryland Department of Health. The statewide rate is 4.61%.

Of the 564 community members to test positive, 12 are younger than 10 years old; 33 are in the 10-19 range; 99 are 20-29 years old; 83 are 30-39; 92 are 40-49; 146 are 50-59; 74 are 60-69; 19 are 70-79; and 14 are 80-89. Women have accounted for 289 of the positive tests, and men 283. In cases where race is known, 87% of those testing positive have been white, 7% have been Black and 6% considered “Other.” Where ethnicity is known, 17% are Hispanic.

According to health department data, Westminster has the most cases in Carroll, with 399 across two ZIP codes, followed by Sykesville/Eldersburg with 332, Mount Airy with 187, Manchester with 88, Hampstead with 48, Taneytown with 44, Finksburg with 38, Keymar with 28, New Windsor with 25, Woodbine with 13, Marriottsville with nine and Union Bridge with eight. Data is suppressed in ZIP codes with seven cases or fewer.

The number of hospitalizations for the disease remained at 84 Thursday.

Anyone who thinks they or a family member might be showing coronavirus symptoms can call that 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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