Frederick County deaths from COVID-19 increased by 11, the highest the county has seen, as the state saw its deadliest 24 hours during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The state and Frederick County are still in the acceleration phase of the pandemic, said Dr. Randall Culpepper, deputy health officer for Frederick County. That means the state has not yet seen the peak in cases or deaths.
“We won't even know that we've reached the peak until we've gotten to the other side of the hill, it started going downhill, that deceleration phase,” Culpepper said. “So I think bottom line that the data still says that we need to continue the social distancing and restriction of movement measures that our governor and our local health folks have recommended.”
In Frederick County, 40 people had died as of Tuesday and 653 had contracted COVID-19. The Maryland Department of Health reported Tuesday state deaths increased by 68 in 24 hours. The 11 new Frederick County deaths are not included in the state numbers.
While the Frederick County Health Department reported the 11 new deaths Tuesday evening, they occurred over the past week, according to a press release from the county’s Joint Information Center.
The deaths are three women in their 80s, two women in their 70s, two women in their 60s, a man in his 80s, a man in his 90s, a man in his 60s and a woman in her 50s, according to Rissah Watkins, director of assessment, planning and communications for the Frederick County Health Department.
The state has lost 584 residents to COVID-19, with another 68 deaths likely attributed to the disease. In Maryland, COVID-19 has killed approximately 840 percent more people than the current influenza season, which runs from November to May.
Maryland is 13th in the country in terms of cases and deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The state health department does not have data available for 108 of the 584 deaths. It is likely that some of the deaths are in Frederick, Carroll, Howard and Kent counties, where the local health departments are reporting higher death counts.
Maryland now has 14,193 cases, an increase of 509 in 24 hours. This is a much smaller increase than between Sunday and Monday, where cases rose by 854.
Determining the peak means looking at different factors, from deaths, new cases and hospitalizations, Culpepper said. And to say that the state or county reached its peak, the health departments need to see decreases over 14 consecutive days.
“And so if we have a couple of days of decreases and look back up, again, another increase of cases, we haven't reached a peak yet,” Culpepper said. “But when we start seeing consistent decreases of cases over two weeks, then we can look back and say, that was the peak.”
Some states, like Georgia, have indicated that they will start opening up.
“Now, I think that is a grave mistake,” Culpepper said. “I think there'll be grave consequences because of that.”
That could allow a repeat of history, he said.
“You look back in history, look back at the really the mother of all pandemics, the 1918-1919 flu pandemic that literally killed millions of people worldwide,” Culpepper said. “We saw that when we ended the war, there were major, major celebrations and V-Day major celebrations, and major congregating of people again to celebrate those celebrations. And that's what resulted in one of the next waves of that pandemic. Not a good idea.”
Culpepper said he often uses the 1918 pandemic to teach about infectious diseases and pandemics. Now, the COVID-19 pandemic will be the one to study.
“They're gonna be using this pandemic for decades, decades to come to teach other people how to respond better,” he said.
Hospitalizations continue to increase in the state, with 144 residents now hospitalized due to COVID-19. There are currently 1,433 Marylanders hospitalized, according to the Maryland Department of Health.
Of the 1,433 hospitalized residents, 907 are in acute care units and 526 are in intensive care units. The information is not broken down by hospital.
According to a fiscal year 2018 report from the Maryland Health Care Commission, the state has a total of 9,562 acute care beds, which includes psychiatric, obstetric and pediatric.
Frederick Health Hospital had a total of 257 in fiscal year 2018, according to the report.
There were 1,211 critical care beds across the state in fiscal year 2018, including 18 at Frederick Health Hospital, according to the report.
There are currently 30 patients at Frederick Health Hospital due to COVID-19, said Dr. Manuel Casiano, chief medical officer, in an email. Approximately 80 percent of patients are there for non-COVID-19 medical concerns.
Casiano could not share how many people were in the intensive care unit versus acute care due to privacy concerns. Between a third and a half of the ICU patients are there because of the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2.
“Given the nature of the virus, most people who are COVID-19 positive can safely recover at home,” Casiano said in the email. “We are finding that those who require hospitalization are more critically ill. It is important for the public to understand that we continue to maintain available beds for patients needing ICU-level care, as well as those needing inpatient medical care.”
Maryland now has 930 residents who have been released from isolation, an increase of 13. More than that may have recovered, Culpepper said.
In Frederick County, health department nurses call each patient diagnosed with COVID-19. When they meet three criteria --- seven days since onset of illness, three days without a fever and generally feeling better --- they are considered recovered or allowed to be released from isolation.
But it’s getting harder to keep track of all the patients in the county as the numbers increase. Culpepper said he was not sure how well the other jurisdictions have been able to do, especially those that have more than 1,000 cases.
That means the state numbers could be much lower when it comes to those considered recovered.
Increased testing in Maryland
There are increases in positive cases that correlate to increases in testing, Culpepper said.
And although there are cases of asymptomatic people positive for the disease, people still need symptoms to be tested, he said.
“And so, if we can increase testing, I think that helps us to get a better idea of who is infected, whether you're symptomatic or not symptomatic, who's infected and get a more accurate picture of how big this pandemic really is,” Culpepper said.
Frederick County will likely see some of the 500,000 tests Gov. Larry Hogan secured from South Korea.
Hogan wrote a letter to President Donald Trump Tuesday thanking him for the ability to use national laboratories, like those on Fort Detrick, to test the samples.
Representatives from Fort Detrick did not respond to a request for comment in time of publication.
Outside of the federal laboratories, there are ones across the state that will likely be used to test samples, Culpepper said. But before they can test samples, the labs will have to go through their own regulatory testing.
Frederick Health Hospital announced last week that it is already running its own tests.