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Carroll County has seen more COVID-19 cases among community members this week than any other

Carroll County has set a record for the most COVID-19 cases among members of the community outside of congregate living facilities in a single week.

With 11 new community cases reported by the Carroll County Health Department on Thursday, there have now been 69 for the week so far. The previous high mark had been set the week starting April 5 — near the beginning of the pandemic in the county and state — when there were 60 community cases. By comparison, 37 community cases were announced last week, and 40 were reported each of the two weeks before that.

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Congregate living facilities — including nursing homes, correctional facilities and group homes — suffered sharp spikes in case loads in the first several weeks of the pandemic, spread of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus has been largely contained in recent weeks. Meanwhile, the virus has been spreading among the wider Carroll community at a rate not seen previously.

Carroll has seen 1,300 COVID-19 cases to date, with 648 of them coming from the community. But only nine cases originating in congregate living facilities have been announced thus far in July, compared to 163 in the community.

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Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, closed the Board of County Commissioners meeting Thursday with some brief comments about the county’s current state amid the pandemic.

“Remain vigilant and please don’t be complacent because we don’t want places to shut down again, and there’s been a lot of that going on around us, but as long as our citizens continue to comply here, we’re in a good spot here in Carroll,” he said. “We want to support our local businesses, our restaurants and everything else, so folks please utilize best practices so that we can keep our small business community alive and our restaurants alive here in Carroll.”

Anne Arundel County announced new restrictions Thursday, including a requirement that bars and restaurants stop all indoor services at 10 p.m. And earlier in the week, Baltimore officials acted to suspend indoor dining and toughen mask restrictions, reacting to an increase in cases there.

Despite the recent increases in new cases among Carroll residents, Carroll County Health Officer Ed Singer said Wednesday that he was not planning to pursue any stricter limitations.

Wantz and Singer were among several county leaders who on July 16 issued a joint statement “strongly recommending” that Carroll countians continue to wear face coverings to help mitigate the virus’ spread.

Although congregate living facilities have seen low levels of cases lately, they continue to represent most of the county’s deaths from the disease. Of Carroll’s 136 deaths attributed to COVID-19, 122 have been from those facilities.

One new case was reported Thursday at Lorien Taneytown, which has now seen four residents and two staffers (one Carroll resident) test positive. One resident has died from the virus.

The health department now considers a localized outbreak at Birch Manor Healthcare Center in Sykesville to be closed, meaning at least 14 days have passed since the onset of the most recent case there.

Also on Thursday, the Maryland Department of Labor posted figures for state residents requesting unemployment benefits in the week ending July 18.

A total of 367 Carroll countians applied that week, keeping steady with about 360 residents applying in the weeks ending June 27, July 4 and July 11.

That’s far lower than the thousands who were applying weekly earlier in the pandemic, peaking with 2,979 the week ending April 4, but still above what was normal before the pandemic, which led to an economic slowdown while measures were put in place to limit the spread of the virus. Just 75 Carroll countians filed unemployment insurance claims the week ending March 14. The first case of COVID-19 in Carroll was announced March 13.

In the week ending July 18, 94 of the Carroll residents who applied for unemployment filed claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, an expanded unemployment insurance program offered through the federal coronavirus relief package. The week prior, 113 claims were filed through that program, and 87 were filed the week before that.

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Through Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, an aid program that extends benefits by 13 weeks and offers them an extra $600 a week, 24 locals filed in the week ending July 18, up from 17 the week and 11 the week before that.

Statewide, 33,378 people filed for unemployment benefits the week ending July 18, about 4,000 fewer than the week before.

Carroll County’s positivity rate, or the rate at which tests of county residents return positive, stayed essentially flat Thursday, rising slightly to 3.09% through July 22. That’s the highest it has been since July 9. The rate is reported as a seven-day rolling average based on data from the Maryland Department of Health. The statewide rate is 4.56%.

Of the 648 community members to test positive in Carroll, 13 are younger than 10 years old; 41 are in the 10-19 range; 116 are 20-29 years old; 91 are 30-39; 107 are 40-49; 160 are 50-59; 81 are 60-69; 21 are 70-79; and 18 are 80-89. Women have accounted for 320 of the positive tests, and men 328. 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 423 across two ZIP codes, followed by Sykesville/Eldersburg with 357, Mount Airy with 190, Manchester with 93, Hampstead with 53, Taneytown with 50, Finksburg with 44, Keymar with 28, New Windsor with 26, Woodbine with 14, Marriottsville with 11 and Union Bridge with nine. Data is suppressed in ZIP codes with seven cases or fewer.

The number of hospitalizations for the disease rose by one since Wednesday, to 91.

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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