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Carroll health official concerned about COVID-19 spread as outdoor events resume

The forecast for Saturday — the first day of spring — is for a sunny and relatively warm day.

With the start of spring comes events like Main Street’s Lucky Golden Ticket Chocolate Crawl in Mount Airy, scheduled to run from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday. The event offers a chance to get out, listen to live music, support local businesses and, maybe, walk away with the grand prize of $100 and a 5-pound chocolate bar.

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Festivals such as this have been rare since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but with the weather warming and state restrictions being eased, Carroll countians can look forward to more events like this. That doesn’t mean festivals will look the same as always, however, as gatherings amid the pandemic remain a health risk.

County Health Officer Ed Singer expressed some concern, generally, about outdoor events during Thursday’s Board of Commissioners meeting.

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“I’m kind of struggling with it. As the rules are changing and spring’s coming, we’re going to want to have outdoor festivals. I think about the wine festival and a lot of the events we have on Main Street,” Singer said, also mentioning carnivals. “We need to keep in mind the impact that these types of events can have. It’s not that we shouldn’t have these type of events, it’s that what we really need to do is just keep in mind keeping people safe.”

Singer said outdoor festivals “are going to look a little bit different.” For example, at events where food is served, vendors will have to secure licenses from the health department and adhere to the requirement that food must be served and eaten only in certain areas, while seated.

“We’re used to having a drink in one hand and a hot dog in the other and being unmasked and walking down the street eating and drinking,” he said, noting that if food is served, people have to sit, staying within their “pods” of people, finishing and then putting masks back on when its time to wander around. “This is going to be a difficult change for people to adjust to. … It’s not an acceptable thing for people to be walking around unmasked, eating and drinking.

“We can certainly go around and enjoy the festivals, but we want to keep from spreading the virus.”

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The fire company carnivals that are such a part of Carroll County summers traditionally begin in late May. They were canceled last year due to the pandemic. If they return this year, they may look a bit different as well, unless the current state guidance changes by then.

Regardless, Singer said whether someone is considering going to a festival or to work or to school, the presence of COVID-19 symptoms should be the primary decision maker.

“COVID doesn’t start as a really intense illness. It could just be a runny nose or a cough or whatever,” he said. “If you’re feeling sick, stay home. Don’t take the risk of giving it to other people.”

New cases

The county health department reported 30 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday afternoon, bringing the number of positive tests this week to 113. That’s 13 fewer than Carroll had seen through last Friday so it’s possible there will be a weekly decrease after two straight weeks of increases. There were 150 cases reported last week, which surpassed the 121 from the previous week. Carroll had 104 cases the week of Feb. 21, the lowest total since mid-November and the seventh consecutive weekly decline.

Carroll’s case rate per 100,000 people per day, which is reported as an average over the past seven days, dropped to 12.72. This rate 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 4.53%. The rate has been below 5% since Feb. 13.

According to health department data, there have been no congregate living facility cases this week after just two were reported last week. There also have been no COVID-19 fatalities reported this week.

Vaccine

Health department vaccine clinics are scheduled for Mount Airy, Hampstead and Westminster next week. There is also a clinic for Carroll County Public Schools. Clinics have already been scheduled for Taneytown and Westminster the following week.

County residents 75 and over and adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities should call 410-876-4848 to request an appointment. Family members and friends are also welcome to assist others with the registration process. As spaces permit, additional appointment slots in each clinic will open to residents 65 and over. County residents who are 65 and over or those considered essential workers in Phase 1C who have not yet completed the health department interest form should do so at cchd.maryland.gov/covid-19-interest-forms.

The state of Maryland is open to all people in Phase 2 beginning Tuesday. They can go to coronavirus.maryland.gov/pages/vaccine#locator or call 1-855-MD-GOVAX for information on vaccination options at pharmacies, larger clinics and mass vaccination sites. Several pharmacies in Carroll County are now offering vaccines.

Around the state

The state recorded more than 1,000 new coronavirus cases for the second consecutive day amid a steady uptick in the state’s testing positivity rate.

The daily tally of 1,152 new infections brings the state to 397,898 cases since health officials began to track the disease last year. Friday’s figure also marks the first time in over a month the state has recorded more than 1,000 new cases on consecutive days.

The state’s testing positivity rate, which measures roughly the number of tests returned positive over the last week, climbed to 4.16% — 0.09 percentage points higher than the day before. The rate has increased slightly for the last nine days.

Community cases

Carroll has reported 6,653 cases of community members who have tested positive, 3,416 women and 3,237 men. By age range:

0-9: 253

10-19: 787

20-29: 1,195

30-39: 922

40-49: 900

50-59: 1,249

60-69: 788

70-79: 384

80-89: 151

90-99: 24

Total cases

Carroll has reported 7,861 total COVID-19 cases. The numbers by ZIP code:

21784 (Eldersburg/Sykesville): 1,954

21157 (Westminster): 1,763

21158 (Westminster): 949

21771 (Mount Airy): 637

21074 (Hampstead): 567

21102 (Manchester): 503

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21787 (Taneytown): 460

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21048 (Finksburg): 409

21776 (New Windsor): 201

21797 (Woodbine): 133

21104 (Marriottsville): 113

21791 (Union Bridge): 97

21757 (Keymar): 63

Probable cases

In addition to the confirmed cases, Carroll also had 34 new probable cases, making a total of 2,448 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

Seven members of the community were reported hospitalized on Friday, bringing to 446 the total number of community members hospitalized since the start of the pandemic. Approximately 200 residents or staff members of living facilities have been hospitalized as well.

According to Carroll Hospital, through Tuesday, 11 patients were hospitalized for COVID-19 — as recently as March 8 that number had been just three — and five patients were under investigation for the virus. Additionally, nine critical care unit beds were in use and the total patient census was at 162 out of an approximate capacity of 170.

Baltimore Sun reporter Alex Mann contributed to this article.

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