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Carroll County Health Department begins reporting probable COVID-19 cases

For the first time Friday, the Carroll County Health Department began announcing the number of COVID-19 tests that are considered probable but not confirmed.

These “probable” cases stem from Carroll countians who tested positive with what’s called an antigen test — rather than a molecular test like those offered at state-run testing sites like the one at the Carroll County Agricultural Center — according to health department spokesperson Maggie Kunz.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers such test results as “presumptive laboratory evidence,” Kunz said, so the health department will not consider these results as confirmed cases. The department is currently reporting 44 such cases as of Friday.

The health department has been receiving reports on probable cases since approximately mid-August, Kunz said. These antigen tests have been available in Carroll since early August, according to Deputy Health Officer Henry Taylor.

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“With materials and machines more available, we have more experience interpreting the tests. We can be more confident than before that a positive rapid antigen test indicates a [COVID-19] infection,” Taylor said in an emailed statement. “However, negative tests require more information (such as: a person’s symptoms, whether they live in a long term care facility, their exposures to people with [COVID-19], and any prior test results.)”

Kunz said the health department is responding to these test results as they would a positive result from a molecular test, with contact tracing and recommended isolation to prevent any further spread of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

“These tests have just started coming into our database in significant numbers and we wanted to share them publicly as this information is being used to track and plan,” Kunz said in an email.

In addition, two new cases among community members were confirmed Friday, raising the total for this week to 38 community cases. Although cases will still be counted for the week through Saturday, the number appears to be a steep decrease from last week’s 74. The week before that saw 88 community cases. County Health Officer Ed Singer has recommended that community cases be below 35 per week for a few weeks before in-person schooling resumes.

Countywide, though, there was a net loss of two total cases Friday, according to the health department’s data.

Kunz said the health department has lowered the resident case total at Fairhaven in Sykesville to 47, from 51, because three cases were among residents who tested positive for a second time, and one case was reclassified as a case among the wider community. Those four cases are the only ones removed from the countywide total for congregate living facilities Friday.

No coronavirus-related fatalities have been announced in Carroll since Aug. 28. Congregate living facilities account for 127 of the 144 county deaths, but there have been few new cases among these facilities in recent weeks.

The health department has reported that 10 intensive care unit beds were in use as of Wednesday, four of them being occupied by COVID-19 patients. Singer has said that hospital resources could become overtaxed if more than 10 ICU beds are needed on a given day.

On Friday, spokesperson Rachel Turner said the health department is watching for consecutive days of move than 10 ICU beds being in use, “so right now we are not too concerned but we are keeping an eye on the data.”

McDaniel College has reported 10 positive COVID-19 tests among its campus population, from a total of 1,675 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, is 2.04% through Thursday, whereas the statewide rate Maryland has reported is 3.21%.

According to health department data, the number of Carroll countians who have been released from isolation after contracting COVID-19 increased by 26 since Thursday, to 1,051. And the number of community members who have been hospitalized rose by one, to 118.

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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; 267 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; 31 are 80-89; and one is in their 90s. Women have accounted for 620 of the positive tests, and men 574.

According to health department data, countywide, Carroll has seen 1,875 total cases. Westminster has the most, with 631 across two ZIP codes, followed by Sykesville/Eldersburg with 496, Mount Airy with 229, Manchester with 139, Hampstead with 87, 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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