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While COVID ‘still a struggle,’ Carroll County’s case rates down as vaccination numbers growing

A little less than 30% of Carroll County’s population is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, but more than 40% have been given their first dose, according to the latest Carroll County Health Department data.

Ed Singer, the county’s top health officer, shared his most recent metrics during Thursday’s Board of Carroll County Commissioners meeting. Singer said Carroll is seeing a downward trend in case rates amid this “third wave” of COVID-19, and the county is reaching a point where the number of people who wanted a vaccination is nearing the amount of available doses.

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Singer urged anyone who hasn’t done so to “get vaccinated, help us bring this pandemic to an end, and help us get back to a more normal life as we knew it before COVID.”

There are 85 new positive cases in Carroll this week, in addition to just one hospitalization and no fatalities reported Thursday by the Carroll County Health Department ― something Singer said is a good sign despite recent high numbers of both.

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There were five community-related COVID-19 deaths in the county last week, and Singer said that tied for the most in a week for Carroll since January.

“The hospital is still seeing very high volumes and they’re still struggling,” Singer said. “The hospitalizations, as I continue to tell you guys, they tend to lag the cases. And the deaths even lag the hospitalizations. So over the next couple of weeks, I would imagine we’re still going to see high rates of hospitalizations and still see high levels of deaths.

“But as case rates come down, those hospitalizations and the deaths should come down as well.”

Singer said the health department’s plan is to phase out its mass testing site at Carroll County Agriculture Center in the next month. The number of people coming to get tested for COVID-19 has decreased on average, he said, and the time to change things is approaching with the school year nearing its end and other events scheduled at the Ag Center.

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The center tested 14 people on Tuesday, Singer said, and the site has seen less than 50 people coming on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. One reason is a general decline in demand for testing, he said.

“It doesn’t make a lot of sense for us to continue to run a mass testing site with those kind of numbers,” Singer said.

Singer said the health department plans to remain a viable option for limited testing should an outbreak occur, for example.

More than 22,750 Carroll countians have been given a first vaccine dose, plus 300 of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson when it was available, Singer said, while close to 16,000 have received a second dose.

Singer said about 85% of the 75-and-older population is vaccinated, a positive. But he pointed to the county’s Hispanic population ― only an estimated 50% vaccinated in Carroll ― as an area of concern.

Singer said there’s a vaccination clinic aimed for that demographic set for Sunday, April 25 at St. John Roman Catholic Church in Westminster. Other vaccination sites next week are scheduled for Mount Airy and Westminster Senior Center, and the following week in Taneytown and TownMall of Westminster.

Singer said the health department’s operation will be shifting from the senior center to inside the mall now that the senior centers are reopening.

“To be able to see the seniors being able to interact again now that they’re vaccinated and we’re moving forward ... is a very positive thing for the community and for that population,” he said.

Commissioner Eric Bouchat, R-District 4, praised the health department for its part in keeping facility-related deaths out of the daily data. Bouchat said it has been great to see zero fatalities in that category for the last two weeks.

But the commissioners and Singer agreed Carroll County isn’t finished with its pandemic protocol.

“It’s still a struggle for people, it’s still a problem,” Singer said. “Especially if it’s impacting somebody that you know that has had COVID or died from COVID.”

New cases

The Carroll County Health Department reported 15 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday afternoon, all of which were community related. This week’s case total looks to finish well below the 187 from last week. With this week’s total reported at 85 on Thursday, the number is significant down as compared to last week at this point, which stood at 119.

There were 228 cases reported the previous week, which was one fewer than the 229 from the week of March 28. Before that, the last time the county saw a weekly drop was the week of Feb. 21, the final of seven consecutive weeks of declining numbers following the post-holiday peak.

Carroll’s case rate per 100,000 people per day, reported as an average over the past seven days, dropped to 13.99, the lowest it has been since March 24. The rate dipped as low as 7.46 in early March after peaking at 47.58 on Jan. 11.

Carroll’s testing positivity rate, which measures the percentage of tests that returned positive results over the past seven days, dropped to 4.55%, the lowest it has been since March 18.

Around the state

State health officials reported 1,203 new cases of the coronavirus Thursday, along with 20 deaths linked to the virus. But hospitalizations dropped for the second consecutive day. Maryland has reported more than 1,000 daily COVID-19 cases for two consecutive days, following a two-day streak of fewer than 1,000 daily cases that ended Wednesday.

The statewide seven-day average positivity rate is now at 5.15%, which dropped for a third day in a row. The state’s average positivity rate has been at 5% or above since March 28. The World Health Organization recommends jurisdictions get under a 5% average positivity rate for at least two weeks before relaxing social distancing and business capacity restrictions.

Vaccine clinics, hospitals, drugstores, and other providers reported administering 75,037 total doses of the various coronavirus vaccines. The state has now reported more than 4 million doses of administered vaccines.

Vaccine

The state of Maryland is in Phase 3 of vaccine eligibility, meaning anyone 16 and over can sign up and receive the vaccine. For Carroll County Health Department clinics, all people age 18 and over who live or work in Carroll County are eligible. Registration is available at cchd.maryland.gov.

Appointments are available at the Westminster Senior Center on Tuesday, April 27 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Those can be made by visiting https://cchd.maryland.gov/registration-links/. Those over 65 or in need of assistance to register are asked to call 410-876-4848.

All Marylanders 16 and older can register for an appointment at a mass vaccination site by going to covidvax.maryland.gov or calling 1-855-MD-GOVAX (1-855-634-6829).

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Community cases

Carroll has reported 7,613 cases of community members who have tested positive. Age group data:

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0-9: 326

10-19: 908

20-29: 1,333

30-39: 1,064

40-49: 1,020

50-59: 1,413

60-69: 914

70-79: 441

80-89: 167

90-99: 27

Total cases

Carroll has reported 8,843 total COVID-19 cases. ZIP code data (those with fewer than seven cases are not listed):

21784 (Eldersburg/Sykesville): 2,185

21157 (Westminster): 1,973

21158 (Westminster): 1,092

21771 (Mount Airy): 683

21074 (Hampstead): 638

21102 (Manchester): 560

21787 (Taneytown): 536

21048 (Finksburg): 459

21776 (New Windsor): 242

21797 (Woodbine): 160

21104 (Marriottsville): 130

21791 (Union Bridge): 106

21757 (Keymar): 66

Probable cases

In addition to the confirmed cases, Carroll also reported four new probable cases, making a total of 2,994 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

One new hospitalization was reported. As of Sunday, Carroll Hospital was treating 40 patients for COVID-19. Additionally, one other patient was under investigation for the virus, nine critical care unit beds were in use, and the hospital had a total patient census of 163 out of an approximate capacity of 170. The 40 coronavirus hospitalizations marked an increase from 36 last week and 33 the week before. There had been 42 patients hospitalized during the peak of the post-holiday surge, but that number steadily decreased until Carroll Hospital had only three COVID-positive patients on March 9.

Baltimore Sun reporter Colin Campbell contributed to this article.

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