With 15 more Carroll County cases of COVID-19 reported Thursday, the county is headed for its first week-over-week increase in cases in about a month.
The 15-case increase appears to be the largest single-day increase since Sept. 4, when 23 new cases were confirmed. Carroll County Health Department spokesperson Rachel Turner said more than 15 cases were reported the Monday after each weekend in September, but those case totals were each divided among multiple days.
All of the new cases were among community members living outside of congregate living facilities such as nursing homes. One of them was confirmed Thursday but originated from last week, raising its total to 45, according to Turner.
This week’s case total among community members stands at 38, with Friday and Saturday still to be counted. That sets a pace for the first week-over-week increase since the week of Aug. 30, which had 88 cases after the prior week had 37. Since then, totals have declined, first to 74 the week of Sept. 6, followed by 54 the next week and finally 45 last week.
The county has not yet met the health department’s target rate of new cases in order to safely reopen school buildings.
That target is a maximum of 84 cases over a 14-day period, for a daily rate of six cases, in order for there to be a “moderate” risk of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, being transmitted in schools. That rate, calculated based on recent guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, would amount to 42 weekly cases and would include cases originating from congregate living facilities, though only five such cases were announced in September.
County Health Officer Ed Singer struck an optimistic tone speaking to the Board of County Commissioners on Thursday morning, saying he believes it’s possible to reach the “moderate” risk range by the time Carroll County Public Schools shifts to a hybrid model, with students in school buildings two days each week, on Oct. 19.
“We’re getting close to where we need to be,” he said.
Health department data shows the 14-day rolling average of new community cases has declined almost without interruption since Sept. 11.
Singer also told the commissioners that the 18- to 29-year-old age group still accounts for the largest proportion of cases, though he noted there have been seven cases this week in the age group younger than 18 — higher than what has been typical.
When asked about death rates among those who have contracted the virus, Singer said the most significant rate is that of the 65-and-older age group: 23.5%.
A total of 147 people have died in Carroll County as a result of the coronavirus, with 130 of those deaths coming from congregate living facilities.
The rate of deaths related to COVID-19 has been declining, Singer said, but he’s still concerned about people contracting it. He said it can come with long-term effects that remain hidden until later down the line.
Regarding contact tracing, Singer said of those who have responded between July 10 and Sept. 21, the three high-risk gatherings that residents most frequently reported having attended before contracting COVID-19 were family gatherings, house parties and outdoor events. It’s not certain in every case that these gatherings resulted in the resident contracting the virus, he said, but these kinds of gatherings were a common response among people who have had COVID-19.
Carroll’s positivity rate, reported as a seven-day rolling average, rose for the third straight day, to 1.8% through Wednesday. The statewide rate that Maryland reports also rose, to 2.88%.
To date, 1,135 Carroll countians have been released from isolation, an increase of six since Wednesday. The total of community members who have been hospitalized for COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic rose by one, to 124.
McDaniel College has reported 15 positive results among members of the campus community, out of 2,017 total tests since Aug. 14.
Of the 1,294 community members to test positive in Carroll, 25 are younger than 10 years old; 162 are in the 10-19 range; 289 are 20-29 years old; 158 are 30-39; 181 are 40-49; 259 are 50-59; 140 are 60-69; 44 are 70-79; 34 are 80-89; and two are in their 90s. Women have accounted for 668 of the positive tests, and men 626.
According to health department data, Carroll has seen 1,976 total cases countywide. Westminster has the most, with 662 across two ZIP codes, followed by Sykesville/Eldersburg with 521, Mount Airy with 246, Manchester with 140, Hampstead with 92, Finksburg with 91, Taneytown with 71, New Windsor with 42, Marriottsville with 34, Keymar with 28, Woodbine with 23 and Union Bridge with 18. 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.
Times reporter Mary Grace Keller contributed to this article.