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Fewer positive COVID-19 tests in Carroll recently not a trend, says health officer; 110 new cases reported Thursday

While cases of COVID-19 in Carroll County have dropped two weeks in a row, Health Officer Ed Singer told county commissioners Thursday morning that he doesn’t look at that as a trend.

On Thursday afternoon, the Carroll County Health Department reported 110 new cases, making 282 total cases so far this week. That’s on pace to be higher than last week’s 338 or the prior week’s 355. Those two weeks were down significantly from the 428 the week of Dec. 13 and 422 the week of Dec. 6.

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Speaking during the Board of Commissioners’ weekly meeting, Singer said testing was shut down on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, likely depressing the number of tests and thus the number of positive results.

“While the data may look like there are fewer cases in Carroll County, when you take two out of seven testing days out of a week, I think the spread in the community is just as bad as it has ever been and the number of hospitalizations that we’re continuing to see kind of supports that,” he said. “We’re seeing case rates at the hospital where we’re twice where we were at the beginning of this pandemic, and it’s really putting a stress on the hospital system.”

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Commissioner Stephen Wantz said, later in the meeting, that Carroll Hospital is considered to have 170 beds and that, presently, 169 of them are in use. Additionally, 13 critical care unit beds were being used when the hospital considers 12 to be the maximum in that unit.

“Bursting at the seams,” Wantz said.

There were seven new hospitalizations reported by the health department, so the county’s total number of community hospitalizations for COVID-19 since the pandemic began rose to 312.

Singer showed the commissioners a chart that incorporated not only total confirmed cases each week but also probable cases, which 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, but Singer said, “I think this most accurately reflects the spread in our community.”

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Using that combined data, Carroll County is averaging nearly 500 cases per week over the past five weeks.

“That’s a lot,” Singer said. “When we were originally talking about this last summer and talking about opening schools back up, we were hoping there would be somewhere around three to five cases per day, in the neighborhood of 35 cases per week that we wanted to get to. The spread of this virus is obviously worse than it ever has been in our community.”

Among Thursday’s 110 cases, seven were from congregate living facilities — six residents at Sun Valley and one staff member at Fairhaven (as well as two other Fairhaven staffers who live outside of Carroll and are not counted in the statistics). Thirteen congregate living facilities and two correctional facilities have active outbreaks, according to the Carroll County Health Department website.

The case rate per 100,000 residents in Carroll County, reported as a seven-day rolling average, increased to 37.06. Carroll’s positivity rate, also reported as a seven-day rolling average, dropped to 7.79%, well below the state’s current average of 9.31%.

Additionally, there were nine new probable cases, making a total of 924.

Of the 4,478 community members who have tested positive in Carroll, 150 are younger than 10 years old; 491 are in the 10-19 range; 826 are 20-29 years old; 621 are 30-39; 650 are 40-49; 849 are 50-59; 524 are 60-69; 245 are 70-79; 106 are 80-89; and 16 are in their 90s. Women have accounted for 2,321 of the positive tests, and men for 2,157.

Of Carroll’s 5,503 total COVID-19 cases, Westminster has seen the most with 1,863 across two ZIP codes, followed by Sykesville/Eldersburg with 1,451, Mount Airy with 458, Hampstead with 374, Manchester with 367, Taneytown with 305, Finksburg with 277, New Windsor with 127, Woodbine with 87, Marriottsville with 79, Union Bridge with 56 and Keymar with 47. 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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