Coronavirus hospitalizations have ticked back up in Frederick County this week, grabbing the attention of County Executive Jan Gardner.
"We don't want to have another [virus] surge and start high," Gardner (D) said Thursday morning during her weekly public information briefing on COVID-19 and the county's vaccination effort.
As of Wednesday, there were 40 coronavirus patients at Frederick Health Hospital, including five in intensive care. That's an increase of nearly 10 patients in the last week.
"We have started surges with hospitalizations under 10," Gardner said. "So, if you start at 40, that's a problem. [Because] at 70 [in mid-January], it was really pushing capacity."
Gardner is perplexed why hospitalizations in the county remain stubbornly high because trends show them falling across the nation and elsewhere in Maryland.
"We'll do some more homework on that. But it is a concern," she said.
Gardner is also worried that coronavirus variants could fuel yet another surge of cases, hospitalizations and deaths at a time when public patience with the pandemic is wearing thin.
As Maryland prepares to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the first known coronavirus case in the state Friday, Gardner said she feels the weight of the toll the virus has taken.
"This has gone on for so long," she said. "It's just been an emotional and mental strain on everybody. For some people, it's been an economic strain. The frustration I hear from the public is just greater than I have ever heard in my 20 years of public office."
On Friday, Winchester Hall and other county government buildings will be lit in amber as part of the statewide commemoration and remembrance of those who lost their lives to the virus.
Frederick County has reported 272 deaths among 17,095 confirmed cases. Across Maryland, those numbers grow to 7,740 deaths among 384,765 confirmed cases.
In Frederick County, the first known case was reported on March 16 of last year, and the first known death occurred on March 31.
Even with the vaccination effort poised to accelerate with a third approved vaccine that is a single-dose, easier to manage shot and the county set to launch a drive-through vaccination site Friday by appointment only, Gardner preached her three Ws: Wear a mask, wash your hands, watch your distance.
She said it's not time for residents to let down their guard, and she chided the decision made by the governors in Texas and Mississippi to remove mask mandates.
"We have several months ahead," Gardner said. "Remain vigilant, do your part, and it really is up to everyone to take action to stop and slow the spread of the virus."