After a lengthy discussion during Thursday’s Board of Commissioners meeting led to a vote that kept the county in a state of emergency, talk turned to the slight increases in COVID-19 cases in the school system and community at large after nearly two months of steady decreases.
“There has been a little bit of an uptick,” Maggie Kunz, health planner with the Carroll County Health Department, told the commissioners. She elaborated that the increase was in cases among the younger age groups while older age groups continue to trend down.
The Carroll County Public Schools data dashboard listed 47 students with COVID-19 as of Wednesday, up from 31 the previous Wednesday, although the number of staff members testing positive dropped from 17 to 13. Commissioner Richard Weaver, R-District 2, noted that the Carroll County Public Schools tracks cases somewhat differently than the health department.
Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, asked Kunz where Carroll stands in terms of level of transmission, based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance that has been a metric used by the Board of Education in making decisions about schools.
“The positivity rate is good, for CDC guidance, but the case rate that we have, looking at case rate over the last week, is still ‘substantial.’ Not ‘high’, but not ‘low,’” she said. “Definitely ‘substantial.’”
Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, expressed concern given that CCPS will expand in-person learning for many students from two days a week to four days a week beginning next week — essentially doubling the number of students in classrooms.
Later in the day, the health department reported 37 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the week’s total to 97. At the same point last week, 64 cases had been reported. Last week went on to be the first since the week of Jan. 3 in which the number of cases in Carroll went up.
Carroll’s case rate per 100,000 people per day, which is reported as an average over the past seven days, has gone up each day this week and now stands at 13.74 after dropping as low as 7.46 last week. It is still well off the case rate peak of 47.58 on Jan. 11.
Carroll’s seven-day testing positivity rate, which measures the percentage of tests that return positive results, rose to 3.9%. That is a 63% increase in six days, although it has been below 5% since Feb. 14, having reached 8.34% on Jan. 8.
Kunz said the health department was holding a clinic for residents over 75 years old on Thursday and another for those in higher education and those considered vital for continuity of local government Friday. She said clinics are scheduled for Westminster, Mount Airy and the North Carroll area in the next few weeks. And the county is beginning a “soft rollout” of vaccine appointments for those in the 65-74 age group as other clinics stop filling up.
The county continues to ask older Carroll countians interested in getting vaccinated to call 410-876-4848.
“Anybody who is 75 and up in Carroll County who hasn’t been vaccinated and wants to be vaccinated just give us a call,” she said. “We do want to hear from you and make sure we’re getting those folks in to be able to start working toward the next group.”
Kunz also noted that while the health department has been vaccinating those with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) all along, they have added a link on their website for those with IDD. The Arc Maryland filed a lawsuit against five counties, including Carroll, and Baltimore City on Monday, alleging they are providing members of the community unequal access to COVID-19 vaccines.
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.
Around the state
Maryland health officials reported 924 new cases Thursday, bringing the total count of confirmed infections in the state to 390,490. The state hasn’t reported more than 1,000 new cases in a day since Feb. 19 but has surpassed 900 infections four times in the past week. Twelve more Marylanders died as a result of the coronavirus, the state reported. In all, 7,832 residents with confirmed infections of COVID-19 have died.
One in 10 Marylanders are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to state health officials.
Carroll has reported 6,475 cases of community members who have tested positive, 3,329 women and 3,146 men. By age range:
Carroll has reported 7,683 total COVID-19 cases. The numbers by ZIP code:
21784 (Eldersburg/Sykesville): 1,906
21157 (Westminster): 1,729
21158 (Westminster): 929
21771 (Mount Airy): 632
21074 (Hampstead): 543
21102 (Manchester): 492
21787 (Taneytown): 454
21048 (Finksburg): 402
21776 (New Windsor): 193
21797 (Woodbine): 126
21104 (Marriottsville): 110
21791 (Union Bridge): 93
21757 (Keymar): 62
In addition to the confirmed cases Wednesday, Carroll also had 15 new probable cases, making a total of 2,293 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 probable cases are making up a larger percentage of our cases,” Kunz said.
The county health department reported no new hospitalizations of Carroll residents for COVID-19 and the number of community members who have been hospitalized for the virus remained at 436.
Through Thursday, according to Carroll Hospital, four patients were hospitalized for COVID-19 — down from seven the previous week and 15 from the week before that — and four patients were under investigation for the virus. Additionally, five critical care unit beds were in use and the total patient census rose to 170, out of an approximate capacity of 170, however.
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 Nathan Ruiz contributed to this article.