Like many hospitals across the country, Frederick Health Hospital is filling up with coronavirus patients once again.
On Sunday, it was treating 20 COVID-19 patients, according to the county health department. That's the highest number of patients with the disease at Frederick Health Hospital since May 30 when 24 were being treated. The number had been below 20 ever since.
"It's always a challenge to identify the beginning of a wave or surge, as those things are best seen from some distance," said Dr. Randall Culpepper, deputy health officer for Frederick County. "Our recent increases in cases and hospitalizations seem to be occurring at the beginning of the colder weather when more groups of people are gathering indoors."
Culpepper pointed out that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that small gatherings are fueling the spread of COVID-19.
Maryland reported 897 new cases Tuesday, the highest number since Aug. 9 (922). Frederick County reported 21 new cases, marking the fourth consecutive day the number exceeded 20. On Sunday, there were 35 new cases in the county.
More cases tend to lead to more hospitalizations. And, over the last month, the number of hospitalizations across the state has been steadily on the rise. On Oct. 1, there were 331 state residents hospitalized by coronavirus. On Tuesday, there were 471.
"Many people are also likely getting fatigued following the guidelines of physical distancing, wearing masks, and not doing the same social things that we’re used to and that may be contributing to the increased cases we’re currently seeing," Culpepper said.
Medical experts, like Culpepper, warn that, unless more actions are taken to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the months ahead could be grim, especially as a rise in COVID-19 cases coincides with flu season.
The weather is turning colder. People will be spending more time indoors, where the air doesn't circulate as well and the virus is more easily transmitted. And the holidays are coming up, which increases the likelihood of large gatherings for families and friends.
"If our community can become more vigilant about staying physically distant from others, wearing face coverings, and washing hands, we can reduce the number of people who get COVID-19," Culpepper said. "It takes all of us working together to lower our risk, keep our most vulnerable residents healthy, and keep our healthcare system from becoming overwhelmed."
Across the U.S., there are more than 8.7 million COVID-19 cases and 218,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University's COVID Tracking Project.
Daily cases exceeded 80,000 nationally for the first time last Friday and Saturday, according to the Project. Last Friday, the number of cases hit its high mark for the pandemic at 83,057. The following day, there were 82,925 reported, far higher than the seven-day average of 71,532.
In Maryland, there are 141,741 confirmed cases and 3,962 related deaths. That includes 4,721 cases and 131 deaths in Frederick County.
Over the last month, there have been seven COVID-19 related deaths in the county.