With key COVID-19 metrics spiking across the state, including Frederick County, Gov. Larry Hogan declared Maryland to be in a pivotal moment in its fight against the novel coronavirus.
But Hogan was not yet ready to impose further restrictions on businesses and gatherings to stem the spread of the disease, even though "the warning lights are starting to flash on the dashboard."
"I cannot stress this strongly enough. We cannot let our guard down," Hogan declared during a Thursday evening press conference from the Governor's Reception Room at the State House in Annapolis.
Hogan's remarks were delivered after 1,198 new COVID-19 infections were reported Thursday by the Maryland Health Department. That's the highest single-day increase since July 25.
In Frederick County, there were 43 new cases reported. That follows Sunday's spike of 52 new cases, which was the most since June 3.
The positivity rate in the county has been greater than the positivity rate in the state for most of the last week. On Thursday, it stood at 4.29 percent in Frederick County, compared to 4.21 for the state.
At her press conference Thursday, County Executive Jan Gardner said a decision could be coming soon about more restrictions. She pledged to provide an update next week.
"We are having conversations with our health officers, and I am having conversations with the county executives [statewide] ... Some counties are doing better than us. Howard County is doing significantly better than us. But we've had times where we're actually doing worse than Montgomery County."
Hospitals are once again filling up across the state. The Maryland Department of Health reported Thursday that 588 state residents were hospitalized by COVID-19. That's the highest number since August 1 (592) and includes 157 patients in intensive care.
At Frederick Health Hospital, there were 11 coronavirus patients on Wednesday, including one in intensive care.
At his press conference Thursday, Hogan declared, "We are in a much better place than we were at the beginning of the pandemic."
Despite the rise in cases and hospitalizations, the number of deaths has remained relatively low. There were 10 across the state and none in the county on Thursday.
Hogan said that restrictive measures already in place have prevented hospitals from becoming overwhelmed and that hospital stays have become shorter and less severe on average.
But he warned "the weeks and months ahead will be difficult" and that staying on the current road to recovery with no further restrictions will depend on Maryland residents acting responsibly.
"I understand that there is very real COVID fatigue, and it's extremely frustrating to all of us that things are still not back to normal," Hogan said. "We had all hoped that this crisis would be behind us by now. But the simple fact is it is not.
"The straight truth is this virus will be with us well into next year, and in fact our worst time may be over the next couple of months ... But I want the people of Maryland to know that we will get through this together, and we will come out of this stronger and better than ever before. I remain committed to telling it to you straight and to keeping the people of Maryland informed with the facts."