Frederick County reported 44 additional COVID-19 cases Thursday, a number likely to rise as three more drive-thru testing sites to test for COVID-19 open in the county.
The Walmart on Guilford Drive will start offering drive-thru testing, Frederick County Health Officer Dr. Barbara Brookmyer announced during a press conference Thursday.
Testing will be conducted Monday, Wednesday and Fridays from 7-9 a.m., except for Memorial Day. There is no out-of-pocket cost to the tests, Brookmyer said.
Health care workers, first responders, people with symptoms and those without symptoms, following state and local plans, are eligible for tests. Results will be delivered within three to five business days, Brookmyer said.
CVS Health will open two COVID-19 testing locations in Frederick County — one on Liberty Road in Frederick and one on Rotary Avenue in New Market — the convenience store chain announced Thursday.
Tests will start Friday and are drive-thru not done in a CVS store. Patients who drive up will be given the swab collection kit through their window with instructions of how to do it. A CVS Pharmacy employee will watch the swabbing to make sure it is done properly.
The new drive-thru testing sites are part of 17 sites in Maryland and a country-wide initiate announced by CVS Thursday.
The announcement comes after Gov. Larry Hogan announced Tuesday that licensed pharmacies can now offer COVID-19 tests.
The CVS testing sites require registration in advance at CVS.com. Tests will be sent to a third-party laboratory for testing. Results will come after approximately three days.
Brookmyer said after the briefing she was happy about the new testing sites but added more testing is needed in order to understand how widespread the virus may be countywide.
“I’m really excited about those opening up because that will increase the daily and weekly amount of those being tested,” Brookmyer said. “We do need more, but that’s a tremendous help.”
Hospitalizations continue drop
Current hospitalizations, as well as intensive and acute care patients, continue to decline with current hospitalizations hitting the lowest since April 20.
Another 92 people were reported hospitalized by the Maryland Department of Health between Wednesday and Thursday. However, likely due to discharges, the number of current hospitalizations decreased by 36.
The number of intensive care patients from COVID-19 dropped to 526, down by 13. It is the lowest intensive care numbers have been since April 23.
Frederick County is also seeing the decreasing trend in acute care, according to statistics released Thursday from the Frederick County Health Department. However, there is a slight uptick in ICU beds in the county.
Statewide deaths increased by 41, bringing the total number of deaths to 2,045. At least 59 of the deaths do not have county data available, which likely include some deaths reported by the Frederick County Health Department.
The Frederick County Health Department reported 96 deaths, of 4:20 p.m. Thursday. There were no new deaths.
Frederick County currently has 1,625 positive cases of COVID-19. There have been 8,725 negative tests among county residents. That means Frederick County has about at 15.7 percent positivity rate. The county is ninth in the state in terms of positivity rates.
About 3.9 percent of Frederick County has been tested, County Executive Jan Gardner announced during the press conference Thursday.
Brookmyer said after that press conference it is difficult to know how accurate the positivity rate is — because there are less data available with COVID-19 than with other diseases like influenza, where other data can help estimate the rates, even if everyone isn’t being tested.
Counties look at this data to help determine which businesses can re-open, Gardner said. But testing in each county is different, Brookmyer said. For example, there are multiple state-run testing sites at VEIP stations in Prince George’s County, which has the most cases of COVID-19. Frederick County has no state-run sites.
Brookmyer said it is a “comparison of apples and oranges,” adding that counties have different purposes for testing residents.
Brookmyer also addressed antibody tests, which can test to see if the body built an immune response to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. It can help determine if was infected even if they did not get tested for COVID-19 while sick. However, Brookmyer said, there are many limitations with antibody tests.
She warned employers might be seeing attempts from companies trying to market antibody tests for their workforce, in order to see if they’ve had the novel coronavirus.
But it’s likely there are many false positive tests, due to unreliable methodology. In some cases, the test may not test for SARS-CoV-2 but the presence of other coronaviruses, like the ones that cause the common cold, Brookmyer said.
“And then even if it is positive from the novel coronavirus, it’s just showing your body mounted an immune response,” she said. “It’s too early to know yet whether that means whether you’ll have immunity and protection, and it’s unclear how long will you have that protection.”
Hogan also announced Thursday that he would expand contact tracing operations in the state. The state is on track to have more than 1,400 contact tracers available, according to a press release from Hogan’s office.
With support from the state, county health officials will now have the ability to track 1,000 cases and 10,000 contacts each day, according to the release.
Staff writer Steve Bohnel contributed to this report.