Frederick County and the rest of Maryland continue to see an increase in the number of deaths from COVID-19, a sign that the state is not yet ready to start reopening.
The county reported three new deaths between Sunday and Monday. The state reported 30 additional deaths. The new Frederick County deaths are not included in the state counts.
The three deaths in Frederick County are a man in his 50s, a woman in her 70s and a woman in her 80s. The man in his 50s is the second Frederick County resident in their 50s to die from the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2. No one under 50 has died from it in the county.
Thirty deaths in the last 24 hours is a slight increase compared to 23 in the previous 24 hours. The number of deaths is one measure that the state will use to determine when to reopen, Gov. Larry Hogan said in a press conference on Friday.
The federal guidelines for reopening the state suggest a 14-day consecutive decrease in the number of deaths, hospitalizations and intensive care unit patients due to the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2.
In a press conference Monday afternoon, Hogan said that the state has been flattening the curve — the public health strategy to prevent the health care system from being overwhelmed. However, the governor said, when the curve is flattened, the amount of time dealing with the disease is extended.
There were 128 new hospitalizations between 10 a.m. Sunday and 10 a.m. Monday, about the same as between Saturday and Sunday. The state does not report the number of patients in intensive care unit beds.
Overall, cases in the state rose by 854, bringing the total number of COVID-19 cases in Maryland to 13,684. The number of cases have increased by 589 percent since April 1.
Frederick County reported 626 cases, up 26 in about 24 hours, according to the Frederick County Health Department. In the same period of time, 18 people were released from isolation in the county.
There are now three confirmed cases of the disease in Frederick County residents 9 years old and younger.
Frederick County has not started to see a sustained decrease in cases, said Dr. Randall Culpepper, deputy health officer for the county.
“We will need to see a sustained reduction in local cases for at least 14 days before we can say we are in the deceleration phase and past the peak,” Culpepper said in an email.
Of the 516 deaths, the Maryland Department of Health does not have information on the county of residence for 82 of them. That likely includes one case reported to be in Frederick County by the county Health Department on Sunday and five cases reported by the Carroll County Health Department on Friday.
There are also another 66 probable deaths, including five in Frederick County. Only three people were released from isolation in the last 24 hours.
Hogan plans to announce a more detailed plan for reopening the state later this week, but before the state can seriously think about reopening, it must first achieve four building blocks, he said. This includes ramping up testing, increasing the personal protective equipment supply, preparing surge capacity at hospitals and a robust contact tracing system.
The state has made “significant progress” on each of these, the governor said during his Monday press conference.
“As Maryland begins its reopening and recovery, Marylanders should feel confident knowing that we have done everything in our power, gone to every length, and used every tool and every resource at our disposal to defeat this deadly virus,” Hogan said.
This includes purchasing 500,000 test kits from South Korea, Hogan announced during his press conference. This makes Maryland one of the states with the most testing capacity.
Already, the state has tested at least 71,397 residents, according to the Maryland Department of Health. The state health department does not publicly report the number of pending tests.
“This is still a part of our testing process,” Hogan said. “We have many different tests that we’re working on, but it will enable us to identify those who are sick and those who have the virus so it can help us isolate and do our contact tracing and keep people safe across the state and help us with our reopening.”
The new tests should help the ability to test in the county, Culpepper said. Details about the distribution or what additional laboratories will perform the test were not yet known.
In terms of Maryland, Hogan said it is a possibility that different areas could have different reopening plans. But it would not work if people were to flock to a reopened area, causing the infection rate to skyrocket.
Some areas of the state, like Garrett County, have a small infection rate. That could be due to a lack of testing, Hogan said.
Reopening has to be done in a way that would not allow for a second wave, which is a “real concern for everyone,” Culpepper said in his email. A vaccine and antivirals will be an important tool to prevent future infections, but that will not be ready for some time.
In the meantime, to prevent the second wave, people will still need to adhere to social distancing practices, Culpepper said. And, as the governor has indicated, there need to be better ways to identify who is sick and isolate them, which is part of testing and contract tracing. More scientific evidence on whether a person can be reinfected is also needed.
Hogan said he knows that people are waiting for the state to reopen. He spoke with the leaders of surrounding areas about plans for reopening. They are all looking at the numbers and waiting for a downward trend.
“We’re not quite there yet,” Hogan said.