County Executive Jan Gardner is "cautiously optimistic" about improving coronavirus metrics, but she remains concerned about a high number of hospitalizations in Frederick County due to the virus.
As a result, Gardner has no plans to lift restrictions on bars and restaurants in terms of the hours they can operate and their ability to serve alcohol after 10 p.m. until there are fewer virus-related cases in the hospital. Her executive order on the matter is set to expire Monday, and she's hoping that better numbers over the weekend will allow that to happen.
"I had certainly hoped to be able to lift that executive order last week and again this week. But, unfortunately, hospitalizations have remained high, and I feel I am unable to do that at this time," Gardner said Thursday at her weekly public information briefing about the coronavirus and the county's vaccination effort that was conducted virtually due to the snowstorm.
Gardner also said she will revisit an executive order on indoor recreational activities as soon as hospitalization numbers come down.
At Frederick Health Hospital, there were 35 patients being treated for coronavirus Wednesday, including 10 in the 19-bed intensive care unit.
Those numbers are down from all-time highs in January, but still as high or higher than numbers posted last spring during the initial wave of the pandemic.
"Frederick County's hospitalization rate is a concern because that has been our focus," Gardner said. "Our focus has been to flatten the curve and reduce the strain on our hospital and health care system."
Other key coronavirus metrics continued to fall from their peak levels in recent months, which Gardner hailed as "welcome news."
The number of new cases (71) in the county remained below 100 for the 20th straight day, and the county's rolling seven-day positivity rate (4.8 percent) is as low as it's been since early November.
Gardner reiterated her concern that the county is receiving fewer first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine than it was in previous weeks, as the state begins to allocate more to private pharmacies and mass-vaccination sites.
But she did say the four-week allocation projections now being provided by the Maryland Department of Health will make it easier for the county to plan vaccination clinics and move through the priority groups. MDH was previously providing two-week projections for vaccine allocation.
Dr. Barbara Brookmyer, the county's health officer, said predictable shipments of vaccine "will enable us to now start providing better information for people as to where are they in that priority list."
The county health department is currently vaccinating anyone in Phase 1A — first responders and licensed health-care providers — 1B, including educators and people in assisted and congregate living environments, and anyone in 1C who was born in or before 1947.
Gardner said she will continue to advocate for more vaccine to be allocated to the health department and Frederick Health Hospital.
"We are ready to vaccinate more people," she said. "We just need more vaccine."