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10 COVID-19 cases reported in Carroll County, with return to school halls and fields on horizon

Ten new COVID-19 cases were announced in Carroll County on Thursday, as the path to more in-person schooling — including high school sports — becomes clearer.

All 10 of the cases that the Carroll County Health Department reported were among residents not living in congregate living facilities, such as nursing homes. A case that had previously been announced was found to be a duplicate and was removed from the county total, health department spokesperson Rachel Turner said in an email, leading the daily net increase to be nine cases.

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The number of cases confirmed among Carroll County residents not living in congregate living facilities stands at 25 so far this week. The weekly rate of new community cases has declined for the past two weeks; last week, 53 were reported, down from 74 the prior week and 88 the week before that.

Since the week of July 12, with the exception of the first two weeks of August, residents between the ages of 18 and 29 have accounted for the largest numbers of new cases, through the week of Sept. 13 (the most recent week when age data is available).

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On Wednesday evening, the Carroll County Board of Education decided to go forward with its plan to have teachers back in schools Oct. 5 and start a hybrid model, with students in schools part of the time and learning remotely the rest, two weeks after that. And early Thursday afternoon, the state superintendent announced that Maryland high school sports may return as soon as Oct. 7, with competitions allowed to begin Oct. 27.

Using recent guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, spokesperson Maggie Kunz said in an email that the health department calculated that for a “moderate” risk of virus transmission in schools, the number of new cases countywide over a 14-day period should be 20 to less than 50 people being infected per 100,000 — or a maximum of 84 cases over that 14-day period for Carroll County’s population, a daily rate of six cases.

This is similar to what county Health Officer Ed Singer has previously said he’s hoping to see — no more than 35 weekly cases among community members for two straight weeks. Kunz noted that the target of 84 max cases over two weeks includes congregate living facility cases, unlike the previous target of 35 weekly cases.

Currently, based on the number of cases seen in the past two weeks, Carroll is at “higher” risk of transmission in schools, according to CDC guidance.

The Board of Education is the decision-making body relating to schools reopening, and these benchmarks from the health department are intended to help guide that decision-making process.

Singer said in the Board of County Commissioners' Thursday meeting that he’s hoping figures will continue to trend in a positive direction. “We’ll have to see where things go,” he said.

A total of 146 Carroll residents have died as a result of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and 129 of those have been from cases originating in congregate living facilities.

The health department no longer considers Pleasant View Nursing Home in Mount Airy to have an active outbreak, meaning there has been at least 14 days since the onset of the most recent case there.

Five more probable cases were reported Thursday, bringing that total to 55. 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. 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.

McDaniel College reported a 12th positive COVID-19 test from its campus population Thursday, out of a total of 1,865 tests administered.

Carroll’s positivity rate, reported as a seven-day rolling average, ticked back up slightly to 1.31% through Wednesday. The statewide rate that Maryland reports dropped slightly to 2.57%, again setting a new low.

The number of Carroll countians who have been released from isolation after contracting COVID-19 remained at 1,102 Thursday, and the number of community members who have been hospitalized for the disease also was flat, at 120.

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Of the 1,236 community members to test positive in Carroll, 23 are younger than 10 years old; 149 are in the 10-19 range; 276 are 20-29 years old; 153 are 30-39; 174 are 40-49; 250 are 50-59; 134 are 60-69; 42 are 70-79; 32 are 80-89; and two are in their 90s. Women have accounted for 636 of the positive tests, and men 600.

According to health department data, countywide, Carroll has seen 1,917 total cases. Westminster has the most, with 648 across two ZIP codes, followed by Sykesville/Eldersburg with 505, Mount Airy with 235, Manchester with 139, Hampstead with 90, Finksburg with 89, Taneytown with 66, New Windsor with 41, Marriottsville with 30, Keymar with 28, Woodbine with 22 and Union Bridge with 17. Data is not released in ZIP codes with seven cases or fewer.

The Carroll County Agricultural Center testing site will be closed Sunday, Sept. 27, to accommodate an event but will reopen the following Tuesday, according to the health department.

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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