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Dozen more COVID-19 cases reported among Carroll County community; health officer ‘very concerned’ with trend

A patient arrives for their scheduled appointment at the temporary COVID-19 testing site at Friendship Valley Elementary School on Thursday, July 30.
A patient arrives for their scheduled appointment at the temporary COVID-19 testing site at Friendship Valley Elementary School on Thursday, July 30. (Brian Krista/Carroll County Times)

Another dozen cases of COVID-19 among Carroll County community members have been confirmed Thursday, the first day that the county’s testing site was temporarily relocated.

The Carroll County Health Department announced 14 new cases, two of which originate from what the county defines as congregate living facilities, which include nursing homes and correctional facilities. Those facilities have accounted for 16 new cases so far in July, compared to 277 among county residents outside of those facilities. That’s far beyond the 93 cases confirmed among community members in June.

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So far this week, the health department has confirmed 72 new cases among community members, which is second only to last week, which set the weekly record with 96 community cases.

Speaking at the Carroll County Board of Education meeting Wednesday night, county Health Officer Ed Singer said he is “very concerned” with the direction in which Carroll cases are trending.

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“A couple weeks ago when you guys were talking about a hybrid model I was feeling pretty comfortable with things,” he said, referring to a plan that would have had students in school for two days per week. “[Now] I’m more concerned.”

Carroll has now seen 1,421 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Of those, 762 have come from the community and 659 have come from county residents who work or live in congregate living facilities.

Those facilities still account for the majority of Carroll’s coronavirus-related deaths — 124 of 138 — but they are not the source of most new cases, as they were in the first months of the pandemic.

One of the new facility cases announced Thursday was from a Carroll resident who works at Copper Ridge in Sykesville, where, in total, eight residents and four staffers (three Carroll residents) have contracted the disease. Two residents of the facility have died.

The other case announced Thursday was from a congregate living facility with fewer than 10 people in the facility; because of that, and in accordance with guidance from the Maryland Department of Health, the facility will not be listed, Health department spokesperson Rachel Tabler said.

“The intent of the policy is to minimize sharing information that could reveal a person’s identity and protected health information,” Tabler said in an email. “We are actively managing all outbreaks and anyone directly impacted is notified.”

Of the congregate living facility residents who have tested positive for the virus, 80% are white, 18% are Black and 2% are classified as “Other.” Those figures have shifted since they were first posted online June 23, when 84% were white and 14% were Black.

The rate of infection for Black residents of those facilities in Carroll is almost five times the U.S. Census’ countywide percentage of black residents in the county: 3.8%. The share of county residents who are white is 91.9%.

Among member of the wider community outside congregate living facilities, where ethnicity is known, 15% are Hispanic. Where race is known, 87% of those testing positive have been white, 7% have been Black and 6% considered “Other.”

Carroll County’s positivity rate, or the rate at which tests of county residents return positive, rose again to 3.73% through July 29. That’s the highest since July 7, when it was 4.55%.

The rate is reported as a seven-day rolling average based on data from the Maryland Department of Health. The statewide rate is 4.57%.

Of the 762 community members to test positive in Carroll, 14 are younger than 10 years old; 71 are in the 10-19 range; 147 are 20-29 years old; 107 are 30-39; 119 are 40-49; 170 are 50-59; 90 are 60-69; 25 are 70-79; and 19 are 80-89. Women have accounted for 376 of the positive tests, and men 386.

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According to health department data, Westminster has the most cases in Carroll, with 476 across two ZIP codes, followed by Sykesville/Eldersburg with 390, Mount Airy with 197, Manchester with 98, Hampstead with 57, Finksburg with 57, Taneytown with 53, Keymar with 28, New Windsor with 26, Woodbine with 15, Marriottsville with 12 and Union Bridge with 10. Data is suppressed in ZIP codes with seven cases or fewer.

The number of residents who have recovered from the disease stayed at 575 Thursday, and the number of hospitalizations for the disease remained at 96.

New testing site

Thursday was the first day that Friendship Valley Elementary School hosted the county’s COVID-19 testing site, which was relocated from the Carroll County Agriculture Center to accommodate the Carroll County 4H & FFA Fair, which that will be held there starting Saturday.

Carroll County Health Department workers wait for the next scheduled appointment at the temporary COVID-19 testing site at Friendship Valley Elementary School on Thursday, July 30.
Carroll County Health Department workers wait for the next scheduled appointment at the temporary COVID-19 testing site at Friendship Valley Elementary School on Thursday, July 30. (Brian Krista/Carroll County Times)

Tabler said the first day of testing at the school went well and school staffers were “extremely helpful.” She said 77 people were tested and 100 had signed up, which is in line with a normal day of testing at the Ag Center.

Testing will also be done at the school, at 1100 Gist Road in Westminster, on Aug. 4 and Aug. 6, but not on Sundays, a day that has been supported at the Ag Center. Summer hours at the testing site are 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. The testing site is planned to return to the Ag Center on Aug. 11.

In order to get an appointment for a test, the health department notes, residents may schedule a test through their health care provider or complete a testing form online at https://cchd.maryland.gov/covid-19-testing-in-carroll-county/.

Unemployment figures

The number of Carroll countians who applied for unemployment benefits in the week ending July 25 declined by almost 100, to 274, according to data released by the Maryland Department of Labor on Thursday. The previous week, a total of 367 Carroll residents applied, a figure close to what was seen in the three weeks before that one.

Carroll residents were applying for unemployment at a rate 10 times higher earlier in the pandemic; at the peak, 2,979 applied the week ending April 4.

Still, the recent levels are still above what was normal before the pandemic, which has led to an economic slowdown as measures have been 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 25, 81 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, 94 claims were filed through that program, and 113 were filed the week before that.

Through Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, an aid program that extends benefits by 13 weeks and offers them an extra $600 a week, 16 locals filed in the week ending July 25, down from 24 the week before and 17 the week before that.

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Statewide, 23,839 people filed for unemployment benefits the week ending July 25, down from 33,378 the week before.

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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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