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Carroll County’s weekly COVID-19 cases trending down; health official says lower numbers needed to safely reopen schools

With five cases of COVID-19 announced by the Carroll County Health Department on Thursday, the number of community cases is trending down this week. But for Carroll County Public Schools to be able to safely reopen buildings to all students, those numbers need to keep dropping, Carroll’s top health official says.

“We need to do everything we can to try to get these numbers down so that we can get our schools reopened in person, and I know there’s a lot of concern out there about the kids not being able to be in the classroom,” Health Officer Ed Singer told the county commissioners via videoconference Thursday during their weekly meeting. “I don’t know that we’ve necessarily focused on all the right things because every time we open something up a little bit, we get a little bit more of a bump in our numbers.

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“Sunday and Monday this week ... the numbers were pretty high. The last couple of days the numbers have been under 10. If we can consistently get numbers that are under 10 cases per day, that’s helpful. It gets us closer to where we need to be to get the schools reopened and that’s where our focus needs to be at this time.”

All five cases announced Thursday were among community members living outside of what the health department defines as congregate living facilities, including nursing homes. That brings to 36 the number of community cases for the week beginning Sunday, after 74 last week and 88 the week before that. Singer has recommended to CCPS that community cases be below 35 per week for a few weeks before in-person school resumes.

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In the commissioners’ meeting, Singer displayed a chart that showed the same age group has accounted for the most cases in each of the past four weeks. “That age group of 18-29 continues to be the place where we’re seeing all the spread,” he said.

Another of Singer’s charts showed that intensive care unit bed use at Carroll Hospital had risen to 10 Wednesday, though he said only four are being used by patients suspected of having COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. That’s the highest number of ICU beds in use since Aug. 25.

No coronavirus-related fatalities have been announced in Carroll since Aug. 28. Congregate living facilities account for 127 of the 144 county deaths, but only six new facility cases have been reported in September.

McDaniel College has reported 10 positive COVID-19 tests among its campus population, from a total of 1,674 tests administered. The Westminster college moved Wednesday to a “green” alert status. That means, according to the college website, that “campus health and safety protocols are working effectively and our community is doing a good job minimizing risk.”

Carroll’s positivity rate, the rate at which tests of county residents return positive reported as a seven-day rolling average, dipped to 2.08% through Wednesday. Maryland reported the statewide rate as 3.33%.

The number of Carroll countians released from isolation (1,025) and the number of community members who have been hospitalized (117) were unchanged, according to health department data.

Of the 1,192 community members to test positive in Carroll, 23 are younger than 10 years old; 145 are in the 10-19 range; 266 are 20-29 years old; 145 are 30-39; 172 are 40-49; 243 are 50-59; 125 are 60-69; 42 are 70-79; 30 are 80-89; and one is in their 90s. Women have accounted for 620 of the positive tests, and men 572.

According to health department data, countywide, Carroll has seen 1,875 total cases. Westminster has the most, with 630 across two ZIP codes, followed by Sykesville/Eldersburg with 498, Mount Airy with 229, Manchester with 139, Hampstead with 88, Finksburg with 83, Taneytown with 65, New Windsor with 40, Marriottsville with 29, Keymar with 28, Woodbine with 22 and Union Bridge with 17. 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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