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With one of the highest vaccination rates in the state, Howard County’s COVID numbers continue steep decline

A result of having one of the highest vaccination rates in the state, Howard’s coronavirus metrics rates are falling to levels not seen since last June.

Two key numbers that public health officials and local leaders use when assessing the spread of the virus — weekly positivity rate and weekly average new-case rate — are both at low levels.

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The county’s seven-day rolling new-case rate — which measures the average number of new cases on a single day over a weeklong period — is 4.21 per 100,000, according to the Maryland Department of Health on Tuesday. The metric means that fewer than 100 Howard residents tested positive for COVID-19 from May 4 to 10.

The case rate is the lowest in Howard since June 29 and is significantly lower than the dangerously high rates during the winter. The current rate is a 91% decrease compared with the county’s record of 49.08 per 100,000 tested on Jan. 12.

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Meanwhile, the county’s weekly positivity rate, which measures the percent at which tests return positive over a seven-day period, reached a record low of 1.76% as of Tuesday. Howard has had relatively low positivity rates for most of the pandemic, but the most recent figure is lower than even the percentages after the original wave and before the small surge in the summer. Three weeks ago, the county’s positivity rate was at a moderate level of 5.33%.

Both metrics are significantly lower than the guidelines set by the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of 5% positivity and 15 cases per 100,000 for relaxing social distancing and business capacity restrictions.

After a peak in January, the county’s case rate decreased briefly below 10 per 100,000 in early March. However, the number plateaued between 10 and 20 per 100,000 for the next two months.

In the past three weeks, the number of new cases has decreased almost every day, with Tuesday’s reporting representing a nearly 80% decrease since mid-April.

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The county’s case rate is also much lower than the statewide case rate of 8.96 per 100,000. The state’s weekly positivity rate Monday registered at 2.88%.

One reason for the decline in the county’s metrics is its high vaccination rate. Ever since Howard became the first jurisdiction in Central Maryland to have more than half its residents — adults and children — at least partially vaccinated on April 20, the county’s metrics have fallen.

As of Tuesday, Howard is first in the state with 59.4% of its residents partially vaccinated, meaning people who have received at least one dose of the two-shot Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

When it comes to those who are fully vaccinated, Howard’s rate of 45.9% is second in the state by less than 1% behind Talbot County on the Eastern Shore.

The state-run mass vaccination clinic at The Mall in Columbia is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays. People can call 1-855-MD-GOVAX or visit the state’s GoVAX website at onestop.md.gov/govax for more information on registering for appointments. All of the state’s mass vaccination sites also now offer walk-up shots as well. More information on vaccination clinics in the county is also available at staycovidsafe.howardcountymd.gov.

In total, the Howard County Health Department has recorded more than 19,000 cases since the beginning of the pandemic and 239 county residents have died.

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