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COVID-19 spread slows in past week, Carroll County health officer advises to proceed with caution

The rate of new COVID-19 cases in Carroll County has dropped significantly in the past week, but the county health officer warns shirking safety guidelines could lead to a spike in the future.

“Our total number of weekly cases has decreased significantly in the last two weeks, in large part due to the drop in facility cases,” health officer Ed Singer said in an email Thursday. “Our long-term care facilities have worked hard to control the spread of infection and protect their residents and staff, as they complete mandated testing.”

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Singer warned the Board of Commissioners on Thursday that a spike could be possible in the coming weeks.

“We’re probably going to see somewhat of a spike as we open things back up," Singer said.

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Carroll County announced its first coronavirus case on March 12 and by March 27 still had experienced just 14 cases and no fatalities. The number of cases reported at the end of each week since, kept by the Carroll County Times and drawn from data reported by the county health department, are as follows:

  • April 3: 131 cases (increase of 117), 6 fatalities (increase of 6)
  • April 10: 224 cases (increase of 93), 22 fatalities (increase of 16)
  • April 17: 291 cases (increase of 67), 35 fatalities (increase of 13)
  • April 24: 388 cases (increase of 97), 47 fatalities (increase of 12)
  • May 1: 461 cases (increase of 73), 59 fatalities (increase of 12)
  • May 8: 540 cases (increase of 79), 68 fatalities (increase of 9)
  • May 15: 626 cases (increase of 86), 73 fatalities (increase of 5)
  • May 22: 757 cases (increase of 131), 79 fatalities (increase of 6)
  • May 29: 879 cases (increase of 122), 93 fatalities (increase of 14)
  • June 5: 984 cases (increase of 105), 112 fatalities (increase of 19)
  • June 12: 1,010 cases (increase of 26), 118 fatalities (increase of 6)

Some 55% of COVID-19 cases and 89% of fatalities in Carroll County have been found at congregate living facilities, such as nursing homes.

As of June 12, community cases numbered 449 out of the county’s total 1,010 cases, according to Carroll County Health Department’s website. Of the 118 fatalities, 13 occurred in the community, while the rest were attributed to people who work or live at congregate living facilities.

Spokesperson Maggie Kunz provided information on the first 12 community fatalities. Data for the 13th fatality had not been released Friday.

Eight of the 12 were men, according to Kunz. Of those 12, ages ranged from 56 to 86, with a median age of 76 years. Most of those people had pre-existing conditions, Kunz said.

On Monday, only seven new cases over a span of three days were reported by the county health department — one-fifth the number of positive tests the county had been averaging for Mondays over the past two months.

The number of community cases and positivity rate has gone down, Singer said, but several more weeks need to pass before conclusions can be drawn about a trend.

“That trend will depend on the actions of each person in Carroll County — social distancing, wearing face coverings, washing hands often, staying home when sick, and getting tested when needed. There is always a risk of a spike in cases, but if we all take personal responsibility to protect ourselves and others, we can lower this risk," Singer said.

These actions, coupled with testing and contact tracing, are the most important tools to protect the community from COVID-19, Singer added.

How many people have been tested?

Carroll Hospital has been providing drive-thru testing since March, and in May, the governor designated Carroll County Agriculture Center as a state testing site.

As of June 10, Carroll Hospital had tested 2,747 people through its testing tent, according to hospital spokesperson Selena Mowery. Of those tests, 2,404 were negative and 317 were positive, while 26 were pending results. The samples collected at the hospital are sent to LabCorp, which typically returns results around in three to five business days, Mowery said.

She says the hospital is testing less people lately.

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“After testing an average of 40 to 50 people per day for almost three months, our volumes have declined as testing capacity in the community has expanded,” Mowery wrote in an email. “Currently, Carroll Hospital is testing about 25 people per day, and we expect to increase to about 45 people per day, as the hospital continues to return to full service.”

While all labs are mandated to report positive results back to the Carroll County Health Department, they were not required to report the number of total tests until recently, according to Kunz. As a result, she said it’s difficult to say how many testing sites there are and how many Carroll County residents have been tested.

“A person can get tested anywhere in the country and if they live in Carroll County, we should get their results,” Kunz wrote in an email. “So there are a lot of options. But most are from the hospital’s testing center, the Ag Center site, and local labs and pharmacies that are offering testing.”

She said 272 COVID-19 tests have been administered at the Ag Center as of June 9. The state testing center is not exclusive to Carroll County residents, so that total may include residents from out-of-county.

An average of 34 people are tested per day, with results returned in three to five days from Quest Laboratory, Kunz said. She did not have information on the number of negative and positive tests at the Ag Center, but said this data should be compiled next week.

Kunz and Mowery said they had adequate supplies and staff to perform tests at these sites.

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