Frederick County on Sunday recorded the most coronavirus cases it has seen on a single day since early May, adding 18 to its pandemic total.
Further, the seven-day positivity rate stood at 2.33 percent, about 0.28 of a percentage point higher than the overall Maryland positivity rate, according to local health data.
These figures continue the upswing of positive test results that began earlier this month, following a pattern reflected across the nation due to an increase in spread of highly contagious variants of the virus. Across the nation, there has been a fourfold increase in new cases per day throughout July, according to coronavirus data from The New York Times.
Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, voiced frustration with the way the virus has been trending on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday, proclaiming the country is “going in the wrong direction.” He said the government’s leading public health officials are considering recommending that the vaccinated wear masks. Booster shots may also be suggested for people with suppressed immune systems who have been vaccinated, he said.
On the first day of the month, Frederick Health Hospital celebrated a milestone when, for the first time in more than a year, there were no patients at the medical center being treated for COVID-19. As of Thursday — the last time the county reported hospitalization data — there were three people hospitalized due to the virus, although none of them were in the intensive care unit. The county hasn’t reported any deaths from the virus since July 7.
Earlier this month, when the seven-day positivity rate in Frederick County stood at 1.24 percent, Rissah Watkins — director of planning, assessment and communication at the county’s health department — said the increase in cases shouldn’t be cause for too much concern, so long as there isn’t a similar increase in deaths or hospitalizations. She said the health department had been expecting the case count to begin creeping back up, a trend she said would likely continue through the fall.
Watkins said the upward trend in cases can be explained at least in part by the circulation of the Delta variant, which became the dominant strain of the virus in the U.S. this month. The variant, which has caused huge surges in cases in states including Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana and Florida, is estimated to be about 225 percent more infectious than the original strain of the virus.
The good news is all of the vaccines being used in the U.S. appear to be effective at reducing the risk of serious illness that leads to hospitalization or death from the Delta variant. As of Sunday, 68.1 percent of people eligible to receive the vaccine in Frederick County were fully immunized. Demand for the vaccine has slowed in recent weeks, though — last week, 595 people got their first shot, compared to 10,504 during the peak of the rollout last March.
In a White House briefing last week, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky warned that the coronavirus outbreak is becoming a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.” About 97 percent of people hospitalized from the virus across the country have not been immunized, according to reporting from the Times.