Second Booster Shot

Marilyn Lunwick of Libertytown was one of the first Frederick County residents to receive a second booster of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine March 30 at the Walkersville Public Library. Kathleen Guglielmone, a nurse with the Frederick County Health Department, administers the shot.

After climbing through April and May, COVID-19 cases are falling gradually in Frederick County.

The local positivity rate clocked in at 11.35% on Saturday, the last day for which data was available. This measure, a comparison of the total COVID-19 tests administered and the ones that are positive, has been on a consistent, if slow, decline since May 23, when it hit 15.27%.

New daily cases peaked most recently on May 20 at 126. Frederick County added 56 new cases on Saturday, for a total of 49,027 reported cases since March 2020.

Despite the recent decline in COVID-19 metrics, however, they tower over where they stood a year ago.

On June 13, 2021, Frederick County had a positivity rate of 0.94%. The case rate was 1.10 per 100,000 residents. The rate was 23.28 as of Friday.

Frederick County Health Department spokeswoman and epidemiologist Rissah Watkins said the difference between this year and last can partly be attributed to the contagious variants of the virus now circulating locally, such as omicron and delta.

By and large, people have also been taking fewer precautions than they were last year, Watkins said. Although more are vaccinated, fewer are wearing masks and keeping their distance from one another.

As of June 13, 2021 — when children 5 to 11 had yet to become vaccine-eligible — 52.8% of Frederick County’s population was fully vaccinated. Now, that percentage is close to 80.

“I’m very impressed by Frederick County,” Watkins said of the rate.

The county’s COVID-19 Community Level dropped to “low” on May 31, after being considered “medium” from May 19 through 30.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calculates a region’s community level by looking at hospital beds in use, hospital admissions and the total number of new COVID-19 cases.

When an area is experiencing low community levels, the CDC recommends masking for people with COVID-19 symptoms or a positive test and those exposed to someone with the virus.

The Frederick County Health Department recommended that everyone consider masking in public indoor settings when community levels were considered medium.

Frederick County jumped from low to medium when its seven-day cumulative case rate dropped below 200 per 100,000 residents, Watkins said.

In April and May, Watkins said the increasing COVID-19 transmission in Frederick County could be partly explained by the local circulation of the highly contagious omicron variant, BA.2.

The bump in cases could have been because people this year felt more comfortable gathering, such as to celebrate holidays like Ramadan, Passover and Easter, than they have earlier in the pandemic, Watkins said in April.

When cases start increasing, the acceleration happens pretty quickly, Watkins said — but the decline is always slower.

“One side of the mountain is always steeper than the other,” she said.

It took almost three weeks for the county’s positivity rate to drop by 3.92 percentage points. For comparison, this measure climbed 6.88 percentage points from May 1 to 23.

Hospitalizations from COVID-19 hit a recent high on May 23, with 17 beds filled with patients diagnosed with the virus. This number had dropped to seven as of Sunday.

Frederick County has recorded five deaths from COVID-19 so far this month, compared to the two it recorded during May, Watkins said.

Follow Angela Roberts on Twitter: @24_angier

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