Frederick County smashed the daily record for COVID-19 infections Tuesday, as the novel coronavirus showed no signs of abating nearly a month into the vaccination effort.
The spike, however, was not an entirely accurate reflection of how quickly the virus is spreading across the county. The county health department said a processing backlog of COVID-19 tests at Frederick Health Hospital during a 48-hour period over the weekend that has since been resolved caused the spike to be artificially high.
Still, the 564 new cases reported by the Frederick County Health Department more than doubled the previous high for cases (223) that was set on Christmas Eve. They also accounted for more than 20 percent of the number of new cases reported across the state (2,665).
The hospital said it is back to its normal processing speed for tests, according to the health department. The hospital could not immediately provide any additional details about the lag.
Over the past four days, the county has averaged a little more than 227 cases per day, per county health department data.
Upon seeing Tuesday’s spike, County Executive Jan Gardner was “quite shocked by it.” But, after consulting with the health department, she was reassured the spike represented a backlog of cases being recorded.
“I think it’s going to be an outlier day,” she said.
At Frederick Health, doctors and nurses are now treating more coronavirus patients (69) than they have at any point of the pandemic. There are 11 patients in the hospital’s 19-bed intensive-care unit who are suffering from the virus.
The hospital had been treating between 40 and 60 COVID-19 patients for most of the past month. But the number jumped to more than 60 on Saturday and has remained over that threshold since.
The county also reported three deaths due to the coronavirus over the past 24 hours, which brings the overall number to 204.
Statewide, there are now 312,351 confirmed cases of the virus and 6,196 related deaths.
A total of 1,952 Maryland residents are currently hospitalized by the virus, including 456 in intensive care.
Tuesday’s dramatic jump brings the overall number of confirmed cases in Frederick County to 13,501 and comes on a day that Gov. Larry Hogan announced the first two Maryland cases of the new, more contagious coronavirus variant.
The variant, which originated in the United Kingdom, was found in a couple that lives in Anne Arundel County, including one member who had traveled the world extensively before returning home and feeling sick, Hogan said.
The couple and their two children are now in quarantine, according to the governor.
The Frederick County Health Department said it had not been notified by the Maryland Department of Health of the variant’s presence in the county.
Frederick County’s seven-day rolling positivity rate, which lags behind by a day, did fall right in line with the state’s positivity rate at 8.77 percent.
The rising metrics come as Maryland has now administered 152,129 first doses of the vaccine and 9,655 second doses, according to the state health department’s vaccine dashboard.
That includes 37,067 overall vaccinations in the National Capital Region, which includes Frederick, Montgomery, Prince George’s and Charles counties.
Maryland is currently in Phase 1A of its vaccine rollout, which includes first responders and licensed health care providers, as well as the staff and residents of nursing homes. That’s about 500,000 people, according to state data.
Hogan said that not everyone in the group has to be vaccinated before the state moves into the next phase. He is hopeful that Phase 1B will begin before the end of January, which will allow anyone 75 or older, teachers, child care and educational staff, those involved in the “continuity of government” and high-risk prison inmates to get vaccinated.
Phase 1B includes roughly 860,000 Maryland residents, according to the state.