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Carroll County jumps to substantial COVID transmission, then back to moderate; health department recommends masks

As weekly reports of new COVID-19 cases continue to rise, Carroll County moved to being classified at the substantial COVID-19 transmission for a day, but then moved back to the moderate level on Tuesday evening, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Substantial status means a county has recorded at least 50 new cases per 100,000 people over the past week. The most recent local data shows that the county is now seeing 53.4 cases per 100,000 in a week. The CDC website updates its data everyday, and as of Tuesday evening it reported 49.27 cases per 100,000.

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“We expect we may fluctuate between moderate and substantial but are recommending masking indoors until we are back in the moderate transmission range consistently,” said Rachel Turner of the Carroll County Health Department.

Aside from Carroll, all other Maryland counties and Baltimore City are at either substantial or high COVID-19 transmission.

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After the Monday CDC update, the county health department announced that it was now recommending that all people over the age of 2 regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask indoors in public and crowded outdoor settings, per CDC guidance, to reduce the spread of the more contagious delta variant, according to a Tuesday news release.

“Choosing to wear a mask will protect children under 12 who cannot yet be vaccinated, as well as people who are immunocompromised such as cancer patients,” Ed Singer, health officer for the county, said. “Though COVID-19 vaccines work extremely well to prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death due to COVID-19 and most cases are still in people who are not vaccinated, the delta variant may sometimes be spread by people who are vaccinated, and masks will provide an extra layer of protection for our community.”

Carroll has not instituted indoor mask mandates like some other counties in the state, though about 59% of eligible Carroll County residents have been fully vaccinated — the fifth largest proportion in the state. Over 100,000 or 65.4% of eligible residents have received at least one vaccination as of Monday.

Commissioner President Ed Rothstein, R-District 5, said “although at this time, Carroll County Government is not changing our policy, once again, the citizens of Carroll are being asked to take action to protect themselves, their families, friends and neighbors, and entire community … I know our county cares about each other and will continue to do what we need to do to move Carroll Forward.”

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In awareness of increasing COVID-19 infections and out of an abundance of caution, the commissioners are returning all inside meetings or gatherings where physical distancing of 6 feet is not possible, to a virtual environment. This affects Carroll County government meetings and gatherings only and does not apply to meetings and appointments where 6-foot distancing is available.

At last week’s county school board meeting, Singer recommended that the system mandate masks for all people in schools as the CDC recommends, but board members stuck with the policy of keeping masks optional.

The health department strongly encourages anyone who is not yet fully vaccinated to get their first or second vaccine at one of the health department’s clinics, on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to noon and Fridays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. People can preregister at https://cchd.maryland.gov/registration-links/ or simply walk-in to the health department, at 290 South Center Street in Westminster. People coming for second doses should bring their vaccine cards.

“The best thing we can do is get vaccinated,” Singer said last week, as more than 80% of confirmed cases are people who have not received the vaccine.

In the county’s weekly COVID-19 data report, 87 new COVID-19 cases were reported last week, a substantial increase over the previous week’s total of 62.

Four confirmed cases have been reported at congregate facilities including a Brinton Woods resident and staff member and Carroll Lutheran Village resident and staff member.

So far this week, the county has reported 33 new cases as of Tuesday afternoon.

Carroll’s testing positivity rate, which measures the percentage of tests that returned positive results over the past seven days, is at 3.45% after being as low as 0.71% at the end of June.

One county resident, a woman over the age if 65, died from COVID-19 last week, according to health department data.

The state’s COVID-19 case and hospitalization counts have been trending upward since the beginning of July. The testing positivity rate, which hit a low of 0.45% in June, climbed to 4.83% on Tuesday.

According to the state website, 611 people are currently hospitalized due to the virus in Maryland, a 187-person jump from last week. Hospitalizations hit a low of 97 patients about six weeks ago on July 2.

About 79.4% of adults in Maryland have received at least one dose of vaccine. Children younger than 12 remain ineligible for the vaccines, though they are expected to qualify for vaccinations by the end of the year.

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