Frederick County reported its first death from the coronavirus in two weeks over the weekend as infections and hospitalizations from the virus continued to steadily climb.
The county tallied 58 new coronavirus cases and recorded a seven-day positivity rate of 6.98 percent on Sunday — higher than Maryland’s overall rate of 5.08 percent. It recorded 78 new cases on Aug. 17, the highest daily total since the first week of February. Infections have been surging in the county since early July, according to spokespeople from the county’s health department.
Shawn Dennison and Rissah Watkins of the health department said via email it was nearly impossible to accurately predict future patterns in the spread of the virus and its many variants. They stated weekly numbers of new cases confirmed by testing in the county are projected to increase steadily over the next three weeks, which is as far out as forecasts extend.
As the highly contagious delta variant continues to circulate, case totals are ballooning across the country. America is averaging more than 800 newly reported deaths every day — about twice as many as in early August — according to data from The New York Times.
Hospitalizations from COVID-19 in Frederick County began increasing three weeks ago, according to information provided by Dennison and Watkins. As of Friday, Frederick Health Hospital reported that it was treating 20 people with the virus, five of whom were in its intensive care unit. Similar to trends seen across the country, most of those hospitalized from the virus in Frederick’s hospital are unvaccinated, hospital spokeswoman Kelsey Shupe wrote in an email.
Currently, 60.1 percent of people living in Frederick County are fully vaccinated, according to health department data as of Sunday. That’s a slightly higher proportion than those who are fully vaccinated in Maryland overall and about 10 percentage points higher than the rate of Americans who are fully vaccinated.
According to Dennison and Watkins, the relatively high number of people who are vaccinated in the county has helped reduce the number of people who need to be hospitalized after becoming infected. But they noted that as the number of people testing positive for the virus increases, the number of people entering the hospital system will also increase — even if it is a lower percent of those who needed to be hospitalized after becoming infected in prior surges of the virus.
Frederick County has seen a steady decline in demand for the vaccine since earlier in the summer. Still, 1,316 people received their first shot last week — higher than any weekly total between mid-June and late July.
The health department is preparing to offer coronavirus booster shots after health officials announced a plan last week for all U.S. adults who received a two-dose vaccine to get another jab within eight months of their second one. Dennison and Watkins wrote that the county’s health department is working with its state counterpart to determine how the rollout of boosters will be administered and is collaborating with vaccine providers throughout Frederick. The county will continue providing vaccinations at its Oak Street location and at mobile clinics, they added.
Meanwhile, Frederick Health Hospital has begun giving coronavirus booster shots to immunocompromised patients, following the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s approval of additional doses for this population on Aug. 13.
As the state of the pandemic continues to worsen in the county, the health department has reinforced its coronavirus testing and contact tracing capacity, Dennison and Watkins wrote. The department is also monitoring cases and hospitalizations in the community and is working with the CDC, the state health department and the community to circulate reliable information about the virus.
With coronavirus transmission levels considered high in Frederick County — and much of the country — Watkins and Dennison encouraged people to wear masks when in public indoor settings. Doing so provides the wearer with an extra layer of protection and reduces the spread of the virus, especially among people they interact with daily whose immune systems may not be able to prevent a severe infection, Watkins and Dennison wrote.
They also encouraged people to get tested if they have coronavirus symptoms or come in contact with someone with a confirmed case of the virus and to wash their hands frequently.
And if you haven’t been vaccinated yet, Dennison and Watkins said you should get the shot as soon as possible. The vaccines available have shown great efficacy at reducing the possibility of severe disease, hospitalization and death from the virus, including the delta variant.
“Our health care workers have been hit very hard for over 17 months,” Dennison and Watkins wrote. “If you have not been vaccinated and still have questions, contact your health care provider or talk to someone who’s been vaccinated.”