Howard County Times

Howard County health official offers advice ahead of fall onslaught of respiratory viruses

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Fall brings with it cooler temperatures, colorful leaves and the start of football, and it also means the beginning of the seasonal fight against colds, flu and COVID-19.

With the start of fall just a few weeks away, the Howard County Health Department is offering advice on how people can protect themselves and stay healthy.


“We always recommend staying up to date on your flu shot and COVID vaccines to keep you healthy, safe and out of the hospital,” said Lisa DeHernandez, director of communications with the Howard County Health Department. “We hold COVID vaccine clinics here at the health department and out in the community each week.

“However, we are encouraging folks to discuss with their health care provider the best time to get a COVID booster,” she said. “A new booster that includes protection against a more recent Omicron subvariant, will be coming out shortly. So the decision to get the current booster or to wait for the new booster is one best made with the guidance of your medical provider.”


COVID vaccinations are free and available for all Howard County residents six months of age and older.

Information on COVID vaccines can be found at Information on the seasonal flu is at

Meanwhile, COVID cases have been on the rise throughout the country, according to recent data from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. There are concerns that colder weather means more indoor gatherings that could lead to more cases of COVID.

Since the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency on May 11, the disease is reported less frequently by government agencies. The fact that more people are using at-home testing kits and not reporting the positive results to the health department make it unclear how many cases of COVID are happening.

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Data on the Maryland Department of Health’s website reports that as of Tuesday, there were 65,895 reported cases of COVID in Howard County, up from 65,855, the previous week.

Cumulative numbers of positive COVID cases among residents within a single Maryland jurisdiction are available at

“Neither the health department, nor CDC actually track positive COVID cases any longer, since there are so many who use rapid tests and don’t report the test results,” DeHernandez said. “Thus, COVID activity is mainly gauged by hospitalization rates.”

The CDC categorizes hospital admissions in the county as “low.”


Nationwide hospitalizations attributed to COVID are up 18.8% as of the week ending Aug. 19, when compared to the previous week. Deaths attributed to COVID are up by 21.4% over the previous week, according to the CDC.