Clearly, the dramatic decrease in COVID-19 cases last week, when the county saw only 26 cases according to Carroll County Health Department data, is a tremendous sign. The previous 10 weeks had ranged from 67 cases to 131 for a weekly average of 97. The state of Maryland also took more steps toward a full reopening as key metrics continued to drop throughout the region.
This is all encouraging. But while there is nothing we’d rather do than to declare victory over the novel coronavirus and return immediately to normalcy, we would urge everyone to pay attention to local health officials as well as to what is happening in various corners of the country.
On Thursday, after Gov. Larry Hogan had lifted more of the state’s pandemic-related restrictions including allowing in-person dining at restaurants, Carroll’s Board of Commissioners debated lifting the county’s state of emergency. They heard from Valerie Hawkins, the county’s emergency management manager.
"I do have significant concerns that if the state of emergency goes away that the message that is being sent by the board and the county is that, ‘OK, we can step down, we’re good,’” Hawkins said.
County Health Officer Ed Singer was also against ending the state of emergency. “It doesn’t have a significant impact on us operationally," he said, “but I am concerned about the message that we’d be sending to the community at this point.”
Very fair points.
The commissioners were divided. Eric Bouchat, R-District 4, and Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, were in favor of allowing the state of emergency to expire June 13. Eventually, they voted in favor of a compromise suggested by Commissioner Richard Weaver, R-District 2, to end the state of emergency two weeks later, on June 27, with Ed Rothstein, R-District 5, and Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, opposed.
It will be interesting to see where Carroll’s number of cases are at that point. With people eating out again and returning to gyms, and more and more businesses reopening, we may know by then whether this week’s low numbers represent a trend or an anomaly.
“We’re probably going to see somewhat of a spike as we open things back up," Singer cautioned.
Other states are currently seeing more than “somewhat of a spike.” Florida, Texas and California reported one-day records for cases last week, causing financial markets to tank.
That doesn’t mean the same is going to happen here. But it is worth taking note and doing what needs to be done to try and ensure it doesn’t.
“That trend will depend on the actions of each person in Carroll County — social distancing, wearing face coverings, washing hands often, staying home when sick, and getting tested when needed. There is always a risk of a spike in cases, but if we all take personal responsibility to protect ourselves and others, we can lower this risk," Singer said.
These actions, coupled with testing and contact tracing, are the most important tools to protect the community from COVID-19, he added.
We don’t oppose ending the county’s state of emergency in two weeks, nor do we argue to slow the reopening process. But we do urge everyone to heed Singer’s warnings. As much as we want this health crisis to be over, we aren’t sure it is.