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Howard County records highest number of positive daily COVID-19 cases since May

Howard County on Thursday reported its second-highest number of daily positive COVID-19 cases as the county confirmed 82 new cases, according to the Maryland Department of Health.

The highest recorded number in the county was 83 positive cases on May 23.

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“As was largely anticipated, with impending cooler weather, we have seen a dramatic increase in COVID-19 spread throughout our community,” County Executive Calvin Ball said in a statement. “I understand the pandemic fatigue we all are feeling, but this is a wake-up call. We need to resume the personal practices our residents embraced this spring to slow the spread of this virus and keep one another safe.”

The record number comes as Gov. Larry Hogan cautioned Marylanders to not “let our guard down” at a Thursday evening news conference but stopped short of enacting new restrictions across the state.

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Ball also has not implemented any new restrictions as of Thursday evening

Recent cases in the county have skewed younger and different than previous spikes in that fewer cases are associated with nursing homes or assisted living facilities, according to the county.

“Howard County’s data is favorable compared to surrounding jurisdictions but likely the situation is not stable,” Howard County Health Officer Maura Rossman said in a statement.

While Hogan was giving his news conference, the Howard County Public School System was presenting its hybrid reopening plan to the Board of Education. Starting in-person learning in February for the spring semester, however, depends on Howard County’s coronavirus metrics being under a threshold.

The board voted in October to determine the health parameters the school system will follow when making reopening decisions in the future. To move into a hybrid model for the second semester, the board determined that the seven-day positivity rate in Howard County — which measures the percent at which tests return positive over a week — should be less than 5% and the seven-day rolling average new-case rate should be less than 10 per 100,000.

As of Thursday, the Howard County case rate per 100,000 is at 10.4, according to county data; it reached a peaked this summer at 12 per 100,000 on May 30 and was at its lowest on June 27 at 4.9 per 100,000.

The school board will vote on the reopening plan Nov. 19.

“When I talk about returning safely to school, it is not a binary [choice between] everyone going back or no one going back,” Rossman said. “I really think we need to have a balanced, progressive and thoughtful approach rather than everyone or no one.”

Rossman also expressed concern about what Howard County’s metrics will show in the coming months due to the holiday season approaching, people spending more time inside due to the weather and the relaxing of restrictions.

“We’re talking about February. In COVID[-19] time, a day and a week is like a year. Forecasting what February and our metrics are going to look like, I don’t know. I am concerned, not related to school reopening in Howard County, but that our metrics may not look so good in a month,” Rossman said.

“You’ve been hearing about influenza, we’re going indoors more and, as much as [people] want to adhere to social distancing, Thanksgiving and Christmas and other holidays are coming. That emotional risk for some people may outweigh the benefit of socially distancing. I’m concerned about that.”

Baltimore Sun reporters Pamela Wood and Jeff Barker contributed to this article.

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