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Carroll health officer calls for improved COVID vaccine distribution equity in county, Maryland

As Carroll County passed 8,000 total cases of COVID-19, Health Officer Ed Singer, in his role as president of the Maryland Association of County Health Officers, was among those urging the state to take action to improve vaccine distribution equity, including better utilization of local stakeholders.

On Monday, the Equity Committee of MACHO sent a letter to acting state Deputy Secretary for Public Health Services Jinlene Chan. The letter expressed the need for vaccine distribution equity and also asked the state health department to lay the foundation for longer-term work to address the systemic influences on equity.

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According to a news release, the actions were identified as follows:

  • Provide a detailed strategy to focus vaccination distribution to low-income neighborhoods and communities that may lack the technology infrastructure for online registration platforms;
  • Prioritize equity, as much as speed, in vaccine dose distribution;
  • Publish disaggregated vaccination data by vaccine provider and county;
  • Consider alternative options for distribution/allocation based on highly impacted ZIP codes within each jurisdiction;
  • Consider alternative models of prioritization, such as age-based distribution, or having lower age requirements for racial and ethnic minorities, given the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 and disparities by life expectancy; and
  • Optimize local allocations of vaccine as regional vaccine sites necessitate access to private transportation and jobs that allow for extended time off.

“MACHO established an Equity Committee, in response to last year’s unrest, to examine persistent disparities that impact the health and well-being of Maryland residents,” Singer said in the release. “As an organization of health officers from each county, we feel that local health departments have local relationships and know our communities best, and are therefore best able to reach our most underserved and at-risk communities.

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“The state and local health departments must work together to get shots in arms today and improve Maryland’s health for the future.”

New cases

Carroll County eclipsed 8,000 total COVID-19 cases Thursday. It took about nine months for Carroll to reach 4,000 cases on Dec. 14. It took just over three months for that number to double.

For the second day in a row, the Carroll County Health Department reported 31 new cases of COVID-19, all of which were members of the community. There have been no cases among staff or residents of Carroll congregate living facilities since two were reported the week of March 7.

There have been 110 new COVID-19 cases this week, which is trending higher than last week when, through Thursday, 83 had been reported. Last week’s 149 total cases were fewer than the 152 reported the previous week. The weekly totals had gone up since 104 were reported the week of Feb. 21, which marked the seventh consecutive weekly decline after Carroll had exceeded 500 cases the first week of January.

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Carroll’s testing positivity rate, which measures the percentage of tests that returned positive results over the past seven days, rose slightly to 5.51% — the third day in a row it was over 5% after the rate had been below that level since Feb. 14, dipping as low as 2.45% on March 4.

Carroll’s case rate per 100,000 people per day, reported as an average over the past seven days, rose slightly to 14.25. This rate peaked at 47.58 on Jan. 11 and has been below 15 since Feb. 13.

No fatalities were reported Thursday. The health department has reported two deaths attributed to the coronavirus this month and lists 227 total COVID-19 deaths among Carroll countians, including 57 members of the community and 170 residents of congregate living facilities.

Vaccine

The Carroll County Health Department is currently vaccinating people in Phase 1B and those ages 65 or older in 1C who have expressed interest. The health department will offer appointments to people ages 60 to 64 (2A) and essential workers in 1C as vaccine supply and slots at clinics allow, and plans are in place to soon begin offering appointments to people under 60 with health conditions (2B).

Eligible county residents who have not yet completed the health department’s interest form should do so at cchd.maryland.gov/covid-19-interest-forms or call 410-876-4848 for assistance.

The state of Maryland is open to people in phases 1A, 1B, 1C and 2A. 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

Maryland added 1,382 coronavirus cases Thursday, the most daily infections since early February, according to state health department data.

The state’s testing positivity rate held steady at 4.59% after about two weeks of gradual increases.

Community cases

Carroll has reported 6,800 cases of community members who have tested positive. By age group:

0-9: 259

10-19: 805

20-29: 1,214

30-39: 951

40-49: 917

50-59: 1,272

60-69: 810

70-79: 393

80-89: 154

90-99: 25

Total cases

Carroll has reported 8,008 total COVID-19 cases. By ZIP code:

21784 (Eldersburg/Sykesville): 1,989

21157 (Westminster): 1,791

21158 (Westminster): 973

21771 (Mount Airy): 651

21074 (Hampstead): 577

21102 (Manchester): 506

21787 (Taneytown): 468

21048 (Finksburg): 419

21776 (New Windsor): 208

21797 (Woodbine): 136

21104 (Marriottsville): 117

21791 (Union Bridge): 97

21757 (Keymar): 64

Probable cases

In addition to the confirmed cases, Carroll also had 54 new probable cases, making a total of 2,567 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

On Monday, Carroll Hospital had 22 patients who are positive for COVID-19, according to the Carroll County Health Department. On March 16 that number had been 11 and as recently as March 9 it had been just three. Additionally, four Carroll Hospital patients were under investigation for COVID-19. Nine critical care unit beds were in use, and the total patient census was 154 out of an approximate capacity of 170.

Baltimore Sun reporter Alex Mann contributed to this article.

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