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Carroll County officials urge responsible travel behavior as COVID-19 case rate tops 20 for first time in 2 months

On the eve of a four-day Easter weekend that will include travel for many, Commissioner Ed Rothstein noted that trips might take Carroll County residents to areas with higher COVID-19 transmission rates.

“The virus does not have borders,” Rothstein said during Thursday’s Board of Commissioners meeting. “The virus crosses Pennsylvania, West Virginia, outside of Carroll County. … We’re not an island.”

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County Health Officer Ed Singer responded that it is important for people to be mindful of where they are going. He also noted that Carroll’s rate is high now, too — the county case rate per 100,000 people per day is at its highest point since Feb. 2 — and that behavior while away is of utmost importance.

“We really need to be careful about what we’re doing when we’re traveling. We’ve been encouraging people to limit the contact,” Singer told the commissioners. “I’ve never discouraged people from traveling, I think it’s a lot about what you do when you get there and behaving responsibly.

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“I really think the risk of contracting COVID is mostly from the behaviors. It’s all about what you do when you travel and even when you’re home. I don’t want people living in a bubble, but we need to do things that are safe.”

Singer recommended outside activities, which tend to have far less risk of transmission than indoor activities. He said he would encourage people to go kayaking or hiking, for example, to get some healthy exercise, but to avoid large crowds and family gatherings.

“That’s where transmissions are still happening,” he said.

Vaccine

According to Carroll County Health Department statistics that Singer shared during Thursday’s Board of Commissioners meeting, 51,526 county residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Health Planner Maggie Kunz told the Times that 29,752 Carroll countians are fully vaccinated.

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The health department will now be sharing links online when there are spaces to fill in upcoming clinics that are less than a week away. These clinics are still only open to eligible individuals — people who live or work in Carroll County who are in eligible phases of Maryland’s vaccination plan (All of Phase 1 and Phases 2A and 2B). People who are not eligible to be vaccinated will have their appointments canceled.

The Carroll County Health Department is scheduling appointment-only vaccination clinics for people in all phases through 2B, including essential workers in 1C who live or work in Carroll, and residents age 60-64 (2A) and residents 16-60 with underlying health conditions.

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, 2A and 2B. 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.

New cases

The Carroll County Health Department reported 42 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday afternoon, all among community members. There have been 144 cases so far this week after 204 were reported last week. That was up from 152 the previous week and nearly double the 104 reported the week of Feb. 21, which was the last of seven consecutive weeks of declining totals.

Carroll’s testing positivity rate, which measures the percentage of tests that returned positive results over the past seven days, rose to 6.0%. It has been over 5% — the threshold the World Health Organization recommends jurisdictions stay below before lifting restrictions — since March 22 after 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 to 21.03, the first time it has been over 20 since Feb. 2. The rate had been as low as 7.46 in early March after having peaked at 47.58 on Jan. 11.

No deaths were reported. There have been 228 total COVID-19 fatalities among Carroll countians, 58 members of the community and 170 residents of congregate living facilities.

Around the state

The state added 1,584 new coronavirus infections, bringing to 412,928 Maryland’s case count throughout the pandemic, according to the state health department. The figure represents the most new cases reported daily since Jan. 31. Seventeen more people were reported dead from the disease, which has now killed 8,118 in Maryland since March of 2020, health department data shows.

Maryland’s testing positivity rate crept up to 5.51%, 0.21 percentage points higher than the day before.

More than 1.75 million initial immunizations have been administered in Maryland since Dec. 14, while the state surpassed 1 million people fully inoculated by completing a two-dose schedule or receiving a single-shot vaccine. That means about 16.6% of the state’s 6 million residents have achieved maximum protection against the disease.

Community cases

Carroll has reported 7,036 cases of community members who have tested positive. Age group data was not updated Thursday by the health department. Through Wednesday:

0-9: 271

10-19: 835

20-29: 1,247

30-39: 981

40-49: 943

50-59: 1,306

60-69: 827

70-79: 403

80-89: 156

90-99: 25

Total cases

Carroll has reported 8,252 total COVID-19 cases. ZIP code data was not updated Thursday by the health department. Through Wednesday (those with fewer than seven cases are not listed):

21784 (Eldersburg/Sykesville): 2,042

21157 (Westminster): 1,826

21158 (Westminster): 1,003

21771 (Mount Airy): 658

21074 (Hampstead): 590

21102 (Manchester): 517

21787 (Taneytown): 483

21048 (Finksburg): 430

21776 (New Windsor): 225

21797 (Woodbine): 141

21104 (Marriottsville): 120

21791 (Union Bridge): 98

21757 (Keymar): 65

Probable cases

In addition to the confirmed cases, Carroll also reported 11 new probable cases, making a total of 2,691 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

Carroll Hospital had 19 patients positive for COVID-19 through Wednesday, eight fewer than had been reported March 27, according to the Carroll County Health Department. The COVID-positive patients had gone from three on March 9 to 11 on March 15 to 22 on March 22 to 27 on March 27. Through Wednesday, two patients were under investigation for COVID-19, seven critical care unit beds were in use, and the total patient census was 165 out of an approximate capacity of 170.

Baltimore Sun reporter Alex Mann contributed to this article.

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