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COVID cases in Carroll schools decline again; officials remind citizens to be diligent because pandemic isn’t over

Positive COVID-19 cases in the Carroll County Public Schools system dropped significantly this week as the system readies to return students to buildings full time.

Carroll County’s Board of Education recently voted to allow students to return to the buildings at least four days a week by March 22, and cases have been trending downward for over a month.

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The Carroll County Public Schools dashboard that tracks positive coronavirus cases reported Wednesday that 48 people — 11 staff members and 37 students — have the virus this week. Last week, 61 people — 14 staff and 47 students — tested positive. The total number of COVID-19 cases in the schools had been 113 on Jan. 13 and has dropped steadily since.

The number of people who have symptoms of the virus also declined. The dashboard showed 51 people — nine staff members and 42 students — have symptoms. It’s the first time the number of staff with symptoms were in the single digits, according to the dashboard. Last week, 60 people — 12 staff and 48 students — had symptoms. The total number with symptoms was 130 on Jan. 13.

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Countywide, cases of COVID-19 have declined for six straight weeks, with last week’s total only about one-fifth of the total from the first full week of 2021 at the height of the post-holiday surge.

Elected officials from Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford to Carroll County’s commissioners, however, are preaching vigilance and asking citizens to continue wearing masks, social distancing and avoiding crowds.

Commissioner Ed Rothstein, R-District 5, summoned an oft-used opera metaphor to make that point during Tuesday’s Board of Commissioners meeting.

“The fat lady has not sung, so we should not be leaving the theater right now. We should not be abandoning due diligence,” Rothstein said. “I applaud all those that continue to wear masks and keep safe distance, all those looking out for our community.”

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New cases

The Carroll County Health Department reported 12 new cases on Wednesday, 11 members of the community and one resident at Sunrise.

The health department also announced the death of a resident at Brightview Westminster Ridge on Friday. Of the 223 Carroll countians who have died of the coronavirus over the past 11 months, 170 of them have been residents at congregate living facilities.

Carroll’s case rate per 100,000 people, which is reported as an average over the past seven days, rose slightly to 9.4. That number peaked at 47.58 on Jan. 11.

Carroll’s seven-day testing positivity rate, which measures the percentage of tests that return positive results, dropped to 2.92%, its lowest point since Nov. 1.

Carroll also had 22 new probable cases — double the number of confirmed cases — making a total of 2,099 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.

Around the state

Maryland health officials reported 862 new cases of the coronavirus Wednesday, as well as 27 fatalities associated with the disease. The state’s seven-day positivity rate declined to 3.8% Wednesday, down from 3.9%.

There were 21,549 Marylanders who received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 15,067 got their second shot, according to Wednesday’s data. The state reported 768,468 people have gotten preliminary immunizations in Maryland since mid-December, while 380,799 have been fully vaccinated — about 12.7% and 6.3% of the state’s 6 million residents, respectively.

Carroll vaccine

The county health department administered about 500 first doses Wednesday and some 1,300 this week, according to county Health Officer Ed Singer, who was speaking at Wednesday night’s Board of Education meeting. Between doses administered by the health department, the ones administered by Carroll Hospital and other health care facilities, and doses administered by CVS and Walgreens pharmacies to long-term care facilities, health department data estimates more than 23,000 Carroll countians have been vaccinated.

Carroll remains in Phase 1B of the state’s vaccine distribution plan, which means residents who are at least 75 years old and educators are eligible to be vaccinated at health department clinics. The state is in Phase 1C, so Carroll countians in 1B would have to compete for slots at mass vaccination sites with a much larger group than at local clinics while also traveling a greater distance.

The 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.

Community cases

Carroll has reported 6,173 cases of community members who have tested positive, 3,189 women and 2,984 men. By age range:

0-9: 235

10-19: 711

20-29: 1,093

30-39: 869

40-49: 836

50-59: 1,165

60-69: 737

70-79: 360

80-89: 143

90-99: 24

Total cases

Carroll has reported 7,374 total COVID-19 cases. The numbers by ZIP code:

21784 (Eldersburg/Sykesville): 1,819

21157 (Westminster): 1,653

21158 (Westminster): 903

21771 (Mount Airy): 609

21074 (Hampstead): 527

21102 (Manchester): 477

21787 (Taneytown): 447

21048 (Finksburg): 371

21776 (New Windsor): 187

21797 (Woodbine): 120

21104 (Marriottsville): 100

21791 (Union Bridge): 90

21757 (Keymar): 59

Hospitalizations

The county health department reported no new hospitalizations of residents for COVID-19. The number of community members who have been hospitalized for the virus remained at 427.

Through Tuesday according to Carroll Hospital, 15 patients were hospitalized for COVID-19 and five patients were under investigation for the virus. Additionally, eight critical care unit beds were in use and the total patient census was 145 (out of an approximate capacity of 170). As a point of comparison, five weeks ago the hospital had 42 patients who were COVID-19 positive and 18 under investigation. At that point, the hospital was seeing 12 to 14 critical care unit beds in use each day and as many as 169 total patients, causing health officials to express concern about hospital resources.

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 Alex Mann contributed to this article.

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