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Carroll County sees decrease in weekly COVID-19 numbers; 5 deaths reported

Carroll County last week experienced a drop in weekly COVID-19 cases as it transitioned from high to substantial transmission, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

But the health department also reported that five county residents died last week as a result of the coronavirus.

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On Tuesday, the county had a substantial COVID-19 transmission status after several weeks of maintaining a high transmission status. The CDC website updates its data daily, and as of Monday, it reported 96.17 cases per 100,000 for the county.

By the CDC standard, Carroll is just under the rate to be classified as high transmission. It takes at least 100 new cases per 100,000 to be classified as high transmission and 50 to be substantial.

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On Tuesday, all other Maryland counties and Baltimore City were listed at either substantial or high COVID-19 transmission.

Last week the county health department reported a total of 148 community cases after reporting 204 the week of Aug. 29 and 157 the week of Aug. 22.

Of last week’s cases, nine were reported at congregate facilities, including six Golden Crest Evergreen residents, two Longview residents and one Fairhaven staff member. There were also three fatalities among Nova Springs residents.

So far this week, 44 new cases have been reported.

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Carroll’s testing positivity rate, which measures the percentage of tests that returned positive results over the past seven days, is at 6.03%, a decrease from last week’s rate of 6.97%.

Two county residents — both men under the age of 65— died from COVID-19 last week, according to health department data.

With case numbers and concern rising, Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, asked health department staff at last Thursday’s commissioners’ meeting about the availability of rapid antigen tests in Carroll.

“The test kits are virtually unavailable everywhere,” he said. “I think it’s something that should be readily available,” especially with kids returning to school.

Maggie Kunz, Carroll County health planner, said the department is aware locally “there is definitely a need to better access to testing,” adding that Carroll scaled back its testing efforts when cases fell earlier in the summer and as pharmacies were offering the service.

“There are really only a few locations around the county where you can get tested and it can be hard to get an appointment,” she pointed out. “We are working toward opening some limited, invitation-only testing … which will be available to people identified through contact tracing.”

Carroll County Public Schools are also offering testing for those in the school system at Westminster High School.

“We’re also looking into getting some test kits that we can offer to people … and working with the state on how we can increase access to testing,” Kunz said.

Students, employees and visitors to Maryland’s public schools now must mask up, after state lawmakers signed off on a statewide mandate Tuesday.

The approval came following a lengthy public video hearing that veered between accusations that a mask mandate represents government overreach to pleas from parents that their students be protected against the coronavirus

Much of that meeting focused on Carroll County, one of only two counties in Maryland that did not have its own mask requirement.

The Carroll County Board of Commissioners, however, updated restrictions last month regarding all gatherings and meetings involving county staff and county facilities. In awareness of increasing COVID-19 infections and in order to protect staff and the community, all county meetings or gatherings where physical distancing of six feet is not possible will return to a virtual environment

The state’s COVID-19 numbers have been trending upward since the beginning of July but saw a small decrease two weeks in a row as far as their testing positivity rate this week, reporting 4.61% on Tuesday and 4.65% last week. The state’s positivity rate hit a low of 0.45% in June.

According to the state website, 828 people are currently hospitalized due to the virus in Maryland, a 11-person jump from last week. Hospitalizations hit a low of 97 patients on July 2.

About 82.2% of Marylanders 18 and older 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.

According to the county health department’s data, about 63.7% of eligible Carroll County residents have been fully vaccinated and almost 59.6% have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

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, which are held on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to noon and Fridays from 1 to 3 p.m. There is no clinic this Friday, Sept. 17.

People can preregister at cchd.maryland.gov/registration-links/ or walk-in to the health department, at 290 South Center Street in Westminster. People coming for second doses should bring their vaccine cards.

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