Despite local COVID-19 numbers “going crazy” and the governor calling for enhanced enforcement of coronavirus restrictions, Health Officer Ed Singer said Tuesday that compliance isn’t a major issue for Carroll County.
“The governor said there was going to be an enhanced presence everywhere. However, I think we’ve been doing a really good job,” Singer said, recognizing law enforcement and the state’s attorney’s office for help in “ensuring people are doing the right things.”
Singer was addressing the Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday afternoon, during a special open session because government will be closed Thursday for Thanksgiving. Carroll businesses are generally complying with all of the governor’s executive orders, but “a handful” have presented problems, he said, failing to follow restrictions on more than one occasion.
“We have a few places where we’ve had to be out repeatedly to deal with [but] most folks have gotten into compliance,” Carroll County’s top health official said. “We’re in better shape than most places from that standpoint. While there’s an effort to increase enforcement, I don’t know that we’re in such a bad spot.
“Not many jurisdictions and health departments have had the cooperation we have had here. It makes it that much easier when we don’t have to bring out the hammer and we can just do this from an education standpoint.”
Still, Carroll’s numbers remain on the rise. The county has seen record highs for total new cases of COVID-19 for three consecutive weeks. There were also four deaths last week. That has Singer worried because the number of people over 65 who tested positive last week was the highest the county has seen.
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“My biggest concern is that often the deaths lag the cases. I’m hoping we’re not going to see a huge spike in deaths because these are people who are extremely vulnerable to this disease and are more likely to have worse health outcomes,” Singer said, noting that from the time a person first develops COVID-19 symptoms, “hospitalization or death usually takes about 10 days to two weeks in the progression of the disease.”
One of the measures Singer reports about to the commissioners each week is the number of ICU beds in use at Carroll Hospital, noting that when it exceeds 10 it begins to seriously tax the hospital’s resources. There were only eight ICU beds in use at the end of last week, after reaching 12 on multiple occasions this month.
But Singer noted that while ICU bed usage is not in and of itself putting a great burden on the hospital, dealing with coronavirus patients is. He said there are currently about 40 patients who have either tested positive for COVID-19 or are under suspicion for the disease currently hospitalized.
“It’s roughly a 160-bed hospital. When you take 40 of those, 25% of their beds, that’s a huge impact on the hospital, regardless of what’s happening in the ICU,” Singer said. “If somebody’s meeting a criteria to be hospitalized, it definitely means they’re going to have serious and lasting health concerns.”
As is the weekly norm, Singer went through his presentation, displaying his charts and graphs to the commissioners, and then field questions. They had only a couple for him on Tuesday and he said they were letting him off the hook easy.
Commissioner President Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, said that pretty much everything has been said that needs to be said and that it just come down to Carroll countians doing their part.
“We’ve got to be vigilant. These numbers are going crazy,” Wantz said. “Let’s just pay attention and listen to what the experts are telling us to do and we’ll get through this.”