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State promotes COVID-19 mass vaccination sites. Commissioner says that not ‘in Carroll County’s best interest’

On a day when the health department announced two fatalities at long-term care facilities, county commissioners talked about how Maryland’s vaccine distribution program is not getting enough shots into arms of those who need it most in Carroll.

“I am still not convinced that it is in Carroll County’s best interest, the way it’s being distributed,” President Ed Rothstein, R-District 5, said during Tuesday morning’s Board of Commissioners meeting. “They are continuing to use the regional centers and pharmacies, which are good things, but they’re not as good for those that are vulnerable and getting sick — in other words those over 75 and those, also, we have put on the front lines, the educators … as we continue to strive to open our schools.”

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Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, echoed Rothstein and expressed little hope that anything would change despite conversations between Carroll and state officials, saying, “we haven’t gotten anywhere with that and I don’t think that we will.”

“I still don’t get that the state continues to want to put all of its eggs in the basket of mass vaccination sites,” Wantz said. “I’ve got a huge problem with that. I’ve been a huge supporter of Gov. Hogan and his team [but] this one doesn’t make any sense to me. Our local health departments, that’s where it needs to be done.”

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On Tuesday, Gov. Larry Hogan announced the state would launch another mass vaccination site in early March — this one located in Charles County. Hogan said mass vaccinations sites on the Eastern Shore and in Western Maryland will be opened within “the coming weeks.”

According to the Carroll County Health Department, 3,000 first doses of the vaccine are requested from the state each week, but the department has been receiving 800 to 1,200.

So far this week, 741 first doses have been administered by the health department out of its allotment of 1,000, bringing its total to 9,440 first doses and 3,928 second doses. Between those and the ones administered by Carroll Hospital and other health care facilities and doses administered by CVS/Walgreens pharmacies to long-term care facilities, health department data estimates some 20,000 Carroll countians have been vaccinated.

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. The state is in Phase 1C, so Carroll countians in 1B would have to compete for slots at mass vaccination sites with a much larger group than at local clinics while also traveling a greater distance.

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The 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.

New cases

The Health department reported 23 new cases on Tuesday, although several of them were from prior weeks. Six of those cases were from congregate living facilities — two staff members at Carroll Lutheran Village, one resident at Fairhaven (from November), one staff member at Longview, a Brightview resident and one case at the Central Maryland Correctional Facility.

Two COVID-19 deaths were announced Tuesday. One was a resident at Brightview Westminster Ridge and one was a resident at a facility so small in numbers that the health department does not identify it out of privacy concerns. Of the 222 Carroll countians who have died of the coronavirus over the past 11 months, 169 of them have been residents at congregate living facilities.

The health department has reported 31 total cases this week. Carroll had reported 28 cases through Tuesday of last week, which finished as Carroll’s lowest weekly total since October, adjusted up to 102 cases after data reconciliation. Since peaking at more than 500 cases the week of Jan. 3, Carroll has seen declines for six consecutive weeks.

Carroll’s case rate per 100,000 people, which is reported as an average over the past seven days, rose slightly to 8.9. That number peaked at 47.58 on Jan. 11.

Carroll’s seven-day testing positivity rate, which measures the percentage of tests that return positive results, dropped to 3.11%, its lowest point since Nov. 1.

Around the state

Maryland health officials on Tuesday reported 30 more people died from the coronavirus, while the state added 662 new cases. The state’s average testing positivity rate over the past week declined to 3.9% Monday. The rate has declined every day since Feb. 8 and is about half the 7.39% reported a month ago.

More than 1.1 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered across Maryland since mid-December, according to the state health department. Almost 747,000 people have received their first shot, while 365,732 have received both doses. That means about 12% of the state’s roughly 6 million residents has some protection from the vaccine, while about 6% has been fully vaccinated.

Community cases

Carroll has reported 6,162 cases of community members who have tested positive, 3,186 women and 2,976 men. By age range:

0-9: 234

10-19: 710

20-29: 1,092

30-39: 868

40-49: 834

50-59: 1,163

60-69: 735

70-79: 359

80-89: 143

90-99: 24

Total cases

Carroll has reported 7,362 total COVID-19 cases. The numbers by ZIP code:

21784 (Eldersburg/Sykesville): 1,817

21157 (Westminster): 1,651

21158 (Westminster): 903

21771 (Mount Airy): 607

21074 (Hampstead): 527

21102 (Manchester): 472

21787 (Taneytown): 447

21048 (Finksburg): 370

21776 (New Windsor): 187

21797 (Woodbine): 120

21104 (Marriottsville): 100

21791 (Union Bridge): 90

21757 (Keymar): 59

Probable cases

In addition to the confirmed cases, Carroll also had 15 new probable cases, making a total of 2,077 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.

Hospitalizations

The county health department reported four new hospitalizations of residents for COVID-19. The number of community members who have been hospitalized for the virus increased to 427.

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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Baltimore Sun reporter Alex Mann contributed to this article.

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