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Probable cases of COVID-19 outpacing confirmed cases in Carroll County

With 77 new cases of COVID-19 reported this week in Carroll County through Friday afternoon, it appears Carroll’s weekly total will see an eighth consecutive decline. But have only 77 Carroll countians really becoming infected this week?

Almost certainly not. While there have been 77 cases confirmed this week, there have been 101 probable cases reported (although some of these are from tests taken in previous weeks). So while the Carroll County Health Department’s official numbers list 7,527 COVID-19 cases over the past year, the real number is closer to 10,000 when the probable cases are factored in.

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The health department reported 13 new probable cases Friday, making a total of 2,225 probables since the beginning of the pandemic. These are patients who test positive using a rapid antigen test, rather than a molecular test like those offered at state-run testing sites. The health department doesn’t consider these results to be confirmed cases.

“The number of antigen tests is actually outpacing confirmatory tests,” Health Officer Ed Singer said Thursday during the Board of Commissioners meeting, noting that many are satisfied after getting a rapid test and aren’t following up with the more accurate PCR test.

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Still, as the name suggests, a positive result of a rapid test is a probable case of COVID-19. So while in recent weeks, the numbers of confirmed cases have been just over 100, the actual number is significantly higher as there have been more than 50 probable cases each week since November, often more than 100 and into the 200s during the virus’s post-holiday surge in early January.

“We’re still seeing a relatively high number of cases, close to 200 [including probable cases] a week,” Singer said Thursday. “Things are better but they’re certainly not in a great spot at this point. We’re still have substantial spread of this disease in our community.”

New cases

The health department reported 16 new cases in Carroll on Friday, none from congregate living facilities, to make 77 for the week. There had been 85 cases reported through last Friday en route to 103 for the week, the lowest weekly total since October.

Carroll’s case rate per 100,000 people per day, which is reported as an average over the past seven days, remained at 7.46. It hasn’t been lower than that since Oct. 27. The case rate peaked at 47.58 on Jan. 11.

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Carroll’s seven-day testing positivity rate, which measures the percentage of tests that return positive results, dropped to 2.45%, the lowest it has been since Oct. 26. It has been below 5% since Feb. 14, having reached 8.34% on Jan. 8.

There have been no deaths among Carroll countians attributed to COVID-19 this week.

Around the state

On the one-year anniversary of the first positive test for COVID-19 in Maryland, state health officials announced 913 new cases Friday. Two weeks have passed since the state last recorded more than 1,000 cases in a day, and the Friday’s figure well below the pandemic peak of 3,792 cases on Dec. 4. The number of people hospitalized Friday is less than half of the pandemic high of the 1,952 people who were hospitalized battling the disease Jan. 12.

There are currently three coronavirus variants causing cases of COVID-19 in Maryland. The strains were detected first in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil. All are believed to be more contagious, while scientists said after recent studies the U.K. mutation is “likely” more lethal.

Carroll vaccinations

Through Thursday, health department data showed that 889 Carroll countians had been vaccinated this week with another clinic scheduled for Friday. Clinics will be held in the North Carroll area, Mount Airy and Eldersburg in coming weeks. More than 27,000 county residents have received at least one dose.

Carroll remains in Phase 1B of the state’s vaccine distribution plan, which means residents who are at least 75 years old and educators are eligible to be vaccinated at health department clinics, although the health department has begun vaccinating a small number of those in Phase 1C. Maryland is in 1C, which includes those ages 65 to 74, workers in lab services, agriculture, manufacturing and the Postal Service.

Carroll County officials will hold a virtual town hall at 5 p.m. Tuesday to update residents about the status of the county’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout and answer questions from the public. Carroll’s health department is asking residents who want to receive the vaccine to complete interest forms for their phase of vaccination. These forms can be found online at cchd.maryland.gov/covid-19-interest-forms. More information on COVID-19 vaccinations in Carroll County can be found on the health department’s page at cchd.maryland.gov/covid-19-vaccination.

Community cases

Carroll has reported 6,323 cases of community members who have tested positive, 3,260 women and 3,063 men. By age range:

0-9: 238

10-19: 730

20-29: 1,135

30-39: 883

40-49: 854

50-59: 1,189

60-69: 753

70-79: 371

80-89: 146

90-99: 24

Total cases

Carroll has reported 7,527 total COVID-19 cases. The numbers by ZIP code:

21784 (Eldersburg/Sykesville): 1,858

21157 (Westminster): 1,697

21158 (Westminster): 917

21771 (Mount Airy): 625

21074 (Hampstead): 533

21102 (Manchester): 482

21787 (Taneytown): 449

21048 (Finksburg): 384

21776 (New Windsor): 189

21797 (Woodbine): 122

21104 (Marriottsville): 106

21791 (Union Bridge): 91

21757 (Keymar): 62

Hospitalizations

The county health department reported two new hospitalizations of Carroll residents for COVID-19, raising the number of community members who have been hospitalized for the virus to 432.

Through Tuesday, according to Carroll Hospital, seven patients were hospitalized for COVID-19 — down from 15 the previous week — and 13 patients were under investigation for the virus. Additionally, nine critical care unit beds were in use and the total patient census was 163 (out of an approximate capacity of 170).

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.

Baltimore Sun reporter Alex Mann contributed to this article.

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