We are entering the most dangerous phase of the COVID-19 pandemic in many months, and the people of Maryland are essentially trying to steer without being able to see the road ahead.

Even as virus cases are exploding all around us, and hospitalizations and deaths are rising fast, comprehensive data on the transmission of the virus in Maryland has been unavailable for nearly two weeks.

A cyberattack knocked the Maryland Health Department’s website offline two weekends ago and the agency is slowly — very slowly, too slowly — bringing data back online.

Daily hospitalization and vaccination numbers are available, but the number of new cases and deaths, as well as the positivity rate, had yet to be updated on the state’s COVID dashboard as of Thursday.

And, since all coronavirus data is collected by the state Health Department, the numbers have also been missing from the dashboard run by the Frederick County Health Department. According to data that is available, hospitalizations are at their highest levels since late January, but how many new deaths or cases there have been each day is a mystery.

Are we doing better than the rest of the country, about the same or worse? We see some signs that things are not good.

Frederick Health Hospital has warned that it is approaching capacity in the intensive care unit and total new COVID patients are being admitted to the hospital at rates not seen since last winter.

We all know the danger of infection is rising. We can read the national numbers with more than 120,000 new cases every day, and deaths more than 1,200 a day, now surpassing 800,000 deaths across the country.

We also see the other signs that the virus is out of control again, with professional athletes testing positive and some games being canceled.

We know things are bad, but we don’t know for sure how bad.

State Health Department spokesman Andy Owen told the News-Post in an email that restoration work continues “around the clock” and the data will be updated at the “earliest opportunity.” But he did not provide an estimate of when that would be.

Frederick County’s Health Department can do little, other than wait and watch for the state numbers to be updated.

When News-Post reporter Angela Roberts asked health department spokesmen Rissah Watkins and Shawn Dennison how the server outage has affected the department, they took a deep breath in unison. The bottom line, Watkins said, is that “we just can’t share what we don’t have.”

Until the state information is available, the county continues to tell people to get vaccinated, wear a mask in public places, wash hands frequently and be careful about large indoor gatherings.

Being able to share daily updates of the COVID-19 case count in Frederick County is helpful because it is a good way for the Health Department to keep the danger posed by the virus in the front of mind for the community. That is why the News-Post continues to publish the numbers every day.

Meanwhile, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has asked the state’s hospitals to get ready for a further surge in patients requiring in-patient care. The number of hospitalizations in the state have more than doubled in the past month.

We believe the governor should also consider reimposing a mask mandate for the state. We know there is a lot of resistance among some people, but a mandate from the governor would re-emphasize the importance of masking up. We believe some additional number of people would, however reluctantly, use masks again if Hogan required it. And every little bit can help.

In the meantime, get your vaccine and get your booster shot as well, people. We implore you to take care of yourselves. We have lost far too many people in this community to this terrible disease. You don’t want to be next.

(47) comments

petersamuel

Masks just "facial decorations": "Cloth masks are little more than facial decorations. There’s no place for them in light of Omicron,” said CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and visiting professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, on CNN Newsroom Tuesday.

“This is what scientists and public health officials have been saying for months, many months, in fact,”

Boomer631B

Another fear article on the virus - please stop it with the mask mandate thinking... masks do not work unless you use the specific mask that costs too much $$$ for the average person and their family. Besides the fact; many states that used the mask mandate are the states that have the biggest problems with not just the virus but other illnesses so this variant is much milder and yes it spreads real easy and yet is more like a minor cold. Children have little to no impact from it and most adults especially those who are healthy and vaccinated little impact. For those who are not vaccinated or don't have the boosters yet get them. Those who have other health issues well you should be wearing a proper mask and watching where you go and who you hang out with... but there is no reason for shutdowns or virtual work or schools or the idiotic idea of wearing masks indoor and outside again...

marinick1

[thumbup][thumbup] Well said, Boomer! Masks suck. [thumbup]

Greg F

Boomer an Marnick....two of the idiots who must somehow justify their meager existence by propagating BS once again. Masks do work. Maybe you think they suck, but they prevent a lot of transmissions of COVID as well as flu. Research proves you two are nitwits. You can do what you want, but don't come complaining when you're facing a mountain of hospital bills you got because of stupidity. You aren't researchers, you don't work with them (some of us do) and you don't see the data (again...some of us do) that comes directly from the people who know the most about this. Time for FNP to put an end to the two stooges and ban them for putting out complete and utter mis (actually dis) information. Masks work. Wear them....or see you either in the morgue or bankruptcy court facing your hospital bills. Frankly, we may all be better without the two stooges when...not if..they get it.

petersamuel

Baseless assertions, claims unsupported by results, wishful thinking and insults. That sums up your contribution.

petersamuel

Gabriel: this one (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/science/science-briefs/masking-science-sars-cov2.html#anchor_1619457332454) shows CDC acting as propagandist for masks rather than as scientist reviewing the evidence. It cherrypicks the many studies, focusses on those that seem to support masking, ignores and downplays those that show masks as ineffective or harmful. This kind of biased review by the CDC shows why it is distrusted, and deserves to be distrusted. By contrast the Manhattan Institute (City Journal) review applies the scientific method of review, looking at studies regardless of their conclusion, evaluating their strengths and weaknesses, their relevance etc and only then stating a conclusion. CDC as political advocate and propagandist ius exemplified in Ms Wellensky's constant use of the 3.5 times Arizona study, probably the very weakest of scores of studies, completely out of line with most others. Someone who chooses the most extreme result to talk about is a huckster.

petersamuel

Gabriel: the CDC are not to be trusted. They've been all over the place on masks. Recently they've been propagandizing on the basis of a preposterous 'study' out of Arizona, which was too ridiculous for even the covid hawks at The Atlantic magazine: https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2021/12/mask-guidelines-cdc-walensky/621035/

gabrielshorn2013

Thanks for the additional info Peter. I get it, you don't like the CDC. However, there are many peer-reviewed studies in academia that support the use of masks, many of which are used by CDC as references. I will give your references a look, with the caveat that they must be original work and come from peer-reviewed sources. Fair enough? As for the "CDC being all over the place", that's how science works. When the data point you in another direction, you follow it and change course. Failure to do so will run you into an iceberg.

Fiver

I will say I have seen a lot of ridiculous masks worn ridiculously. At work, people who are going to use an N95 or N100 mask in their biomedical research are fit tested and thoroughly trained. Those masks work as intended or the organization wouldn't allow them. In contrast, many of the "masks" I have seen in the wild are not ideal and worn every which way.

threecents

Peter, Where did you get you list of sources? To get a random unslanted list of quality peer-reviewed sources, I suggest you use the PubMed. The last time I looked there for papers on masks and virus transmission, almost every study showed significant protection using N95 and surgical masks.

petersamuel

3c: Most people wear simple cloth masks, not N95 masks which have a filter. Most masks are simple cloth. I gave my sources: ones who consider each study on its merits, winnowing out the weak ones and following the strong ones. Lots of shoddy studies make a case for masks, notably the Arizona schools study that CDC Director Rochelle Walensky repeatedly cites -- see the takedown of that study https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2021/12/mask-guidelines-cdc-walensky/621035/ Of 14 randomized controlled trials (the best) three found weak but statistically insignificant benefit while eleven found no advantage in avoiding respiratory diseases like covid or actual harm from mask wearing -- https://www.city-journal.org/do-masks-work-a-review-of-the-evidence?/ A CDC study showed 71% of covid patients in a study July 2020 had been masking when they contracted the disease -- https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/pdfs/mm6936a5-H.pdf The Omicron variant is far more easily transmitted than previous strains and so face masks are even less effective now.

Greg F

Let's see your studies PS....I have seen the ones from NIH, WHO, CDC and there is ample boots-on-the-ground evidence masks (other than cloth) work, and cloth masks have been dissed since the beginning by all but the fool-hearty. Some of us worked with those scientists as well and got inside information you just don't see.

Greg F

PS probably hasn't got the ability to critically read anything. Spews nonsense...repeats long debunked garbage the RRR still thinks is the gold standard of their lies. You can't fix that level of dumb. It's cognitive dissonance mixed with Dunning Kruger Effect. PS is just so ignorant that he lacks the ability to realize it, but thinks he's the smartest one out there, and then holds on to his beliefs as an impenetrable fence if nitwittery that no amount of real data or fact can get through. Jethro Tull said it best....Thick as a Brick.

Greg F

PS...you are so full of baloney....CDC is far more trustworthy and knowledgeable than you could ever dream to be.

petersamuel

Gabriel, I have article after article, report after report that masks are stupid:

Josh Stevenson for R(g) Rational Ground

2021.10.20

1 Annals of Internal Medicine: "Therefore, evidence for mask use versus nonuse and comparing masks types in health care settings remained insufficient" 
https://www.acpjournals.org/doi/10.7326/L20-1292

2 Annals of Internal Medicine: "The recommendation to wear surgical masks to supplement other public health measures did not reduce the SARS-CoV-2 infection rate among wearers by more than 50% in a community with modest infection rates"
https://www.acpjournals.org/doi/10.7326/M20-6817

3 `Cochrane Library: "There is moderate certainty evidence that wearing a mask probably makes little or no difference to the outcome of laboratory‐confirmed influenza compared to not wearing a mask"
https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD006207.pub5/full

4 "In intention-to-treat analysis, facemask use was neither effective against laboratory-confirmed vRTIs, nor against CRI, not even in per-protocol analysis." 
https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3349234

5 "However, overall there is a lack of substantial evidence to support claims that facemasks protect either patient or surgeon from infectious contamination."
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4480558/

6 "No evidence was identified that examined a potential role for surgical face masks in protecting staff from infectious material encountered in the operating room."
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK195765/

7 Southern Medical Journal: "There was no reduction in per-population daily mortality, hospital bed, ICU bed, or ventilator occupancy of COVID-19-positive patients attributable to the implementation of a mask-wearing mandate."
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8395971/

8 Covid advisor ""What we're worried about is people getting exposed and getting infected while thinking they were actually doing something to protect themselves,"
https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2020/11/confronting-notion-face-masks-reduce-covid-dose

9 "Making pre-school children wear masks is bad public health"
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2666535221001221#

10 "the difficulties associated with the mask’s use are significantly pronounced in children aged between 3 and 5 years old."
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34591895/

11 "Use of face masks is not recommended in schools in Norway."
https://www.eurosurveillance.org/content/10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2020.26.1.2002011

12 "The main insight of the present research is that face masks’ use influences emotion inference from faces for all ages and especially for toddlers."
https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.669432/full

gabrielshorn2013

Peter, it's going to take me a while to go through all of your references. It appears that, with evidence on both sides of the issue, that the best that can be said is that the evidence is inconclusive.

petersamuel

Yes, Gabriel, agree: It's a fair summary to say that the evidence for masks is inconclusive. On the CDC I should have said the "leadership of the CDC is not to be trusted." It's a big organization and I'm sure it does a lot of good work and employs good scientists of integrity. But it's leaders under both Trump and Biden are unimpressive political hacks. Along with Fauci they have done terrible damage to public health, the economy and national morale.

MD1756

And there are articles after articles and reports after reports that many people are stupid. Just look at your #2 reference "...did not reduce the SARS-CoV-2 infection rate among wearers by more than 50%..." If my recollection of the English language serves me, that means infection rates were down with mask wearers just not by more than 50%. Source #3 Moderate (not high) certainty of little to no difference. Little difference is better than none. ow was that difference for the wearer or those around the ones who wore the mask? #6 is a specific mask type in a specific situation which doesn't apply to the general population for many reasons. Source #7 is silent about reduction or not in the transmission of the virus, it only talks about the outcomes once contracted. #8 is just dumb and stupid people will act dumb. Very few things are 100% effective so if you act with no concern, the odds will eventually catch up with you if you do it long enough. #9, then just keep pre-school children at home where they belong anyhow. Now, I'd say do away with the mask mandate after two weeks (make that 3 weeks to be on the safe side) of national mandatory mixing of those who are not vaccinated so we can get their infections out of the way.

threecents

Thank you MD

petersamuel

Gabriel: a particularly important seminal research study by the CDC published in Emerging Infectious Diseases (EID) in May 2020 and looking at nonpharmaceutical measures for pandemic influenza in nonhealthcare settings (personal protective and environmental measures using 10 RCTs), found that use of masks did not reduce the rate of laboratory-proven infections with the respiratory influenza virus. “In pooled analysis, we found no significant reduction in influenza transmission with the use of face masks”.  See links at beginning of https://www.aier.org/article/covid-19-mandates-will-not-work-for-the-delta-variant/

petersamuel

Gabriel: on the harms of masks: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8072811/

petersamuel

Gabriel, here's one conclusion: "In sum, of the 14 RCTs that have tested the effectiveness of masks in preventing the transmission of respiratory viruses, three suggest, but do not provide any statistically significant evidence in intention-to-treat analysis, that masks might be useful. The other eleven suggest that masks are either useless—whether compared with no masks or because they appear not to add to good hand hygiene alone—or actually counterproductive." from Do Masks Work: a review of the evidence, Jeffrey Anderson, CITY JOURNAL 2021.08.11

petersamuel

Stupid irresponsible, baseless fearmongering. Deaths with covid (c19) nationally continue to decline -- the latest numbers are under 1,300 vs over 2,000 mid-September and 4,000 through most of January. There's no reason to think Maryland bucks the trend. The Omicron variant is treated as some terrible threat. To the contrary it is welcome since it's far less deadly and there's a good chance it will soon crowd out the more dangerous delta. Of course the virus is, as the FNP states "out of control" because it was never under control. It cannot be controlled. That's the nature of the virus. Why the hysteria? Over 80 percent of people are vaccinated. Vaccination doesn't stop the spread. But it does help most people reduce the disease's severity. Many people don't even know they've got the disease, most get flu-like symptoms and fully recover. Time to move on and put the nonsense of mandates, lockdowns, masks etc behind us. They've all proven ineffectual in altering the course of the pandemic while ruining so many people's lives.

WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot

[thumbup] peter, but the politicians will never let a crisis go to waste. They are fumbling around with mandates while most of us vaccinated and boosted people have moved on.

petersamuel

Brendan O'Neill in Spiked: "...... the politics of fear was never necessary, not even back in March 2020, when Covid-19 was new, clearly virulent, and arriving among populaces that had no protection against it – no vaccines, no immunity. Even then, leveling with the public... would have been preferable to the enforced atomization and culture of perma-fear that the political and media elites opted for. Today, 21 months later, the playing of the fear card is more preposterous still. Omicron seems to be a milder variant than Delta. What’s more, 95 per cent.. have some level of antibodies against Covid. The idea that we are helpless, hapless creatures facing a mountainous wave of doom is simply untenable. It is, to all intents and purposes, a lie." I recommend Pandemia by Alex Berenson: https://www.amazon.com/Pandemia-Coronavirus-Hysteria-Government-Rights-ebook/dp/B08XJRRZJP/

WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot

Didn't Joe play the race card when Trump shut down travel from China and Africa, and yet Joe shuts down travel from Africa on reports of a variant that the reporting physician declared was only producing mild symptoms and her patients were being treated at home? Who's the big old racist now?

Plumbum

W

T

F

Very foolish. And Sammy too

eastmoonrabbit

Stupid irresponsible baseless drivel from you.

joshrhoderick

Please remember that you wear a mask not only to protect yourself but to protect others around you. Wearing a mask indoors is probably the simplest, easiest thing we can do. It's not perfect but it keeps businesses open, people at work, and helps mitigate the anxiety of being out and about.

I care about you so I will continue to wear a mask indoors. Please do the same for me.

petersamuel

The masks are the theater of hysteria. The viral particles are orders of magnitude smaller than the gaps in mask fabric. Like using 2 inch chain link fencing to keep mosquitos out.

gabrielshorn2013

Peter, your comment would be true if and only if size exclusion was the only way that filters (masks) worked. It's not. The airborne virus is associated with exhaled water vapor. As such, there is hydrophilic attraction of the water, as well as electrostatic attraction between the viral particle and the mask material. If SE were the only criteria, viruses would blow through a HEPA filter too. They don't.

petersamuel

Gabriel: regardless of the mask fiber mechanics that may stop some virus getting through enough does apparently get through to spread the disease. The studies find no less disease among the masked as compared with the maskless. Masks also carry harms of their own -- causing pathogens to be collected, inhibiting breathing etc.

gabrielshorn2013

Peter, please provide a citation. Try PubMed. All the studies I have read (and yes, I do read them as a part of what I do) say otherwise.

gabrielshorn2013

Peter, here's a good summary report.

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/science/science-briefs/masking-science-sars-cov2.html#anchor_1619457332454

Fiver

I know you cited other references looking at this issue. I will look at them. I just wanted to address the topic of viral particles being smaller than the gaps in mask fabric because I have heard a lot of people saying this. It is true what gabriel says about water vapor. Viruses do not float naked through the air. They are dissolved in water droplets of various sizes - snot and saliva. Aerobiologists measure the size of these droplets and study how likely they are to make it into your nose or down deep into your lungs. Some are large enough to fall on the ground before they get to you. Others are breathable and make the distance. Droplets and aerosols fly through the air, each carrying a certain number of viral particles. You have to consider if the particles you emit while coughing, sneezing and talking, etc. are larger or smaller than the gaps in mask fabric, not the viral particles themselves.

petersamuel

OK 5er I can defer to your explanation of how coarse mask fabric might work in catching viral particles, and all that could be true. My analogy of chainlink mesh against mosquitoes is obviously crude and to some extent misleading. But none of that alters the fact that viral particles DO GET THROUGH, and the best of the studies (RCTs) show such pandemics have a trajectory they run on regardless of the extent of masking.

Greg F

PS, you're the theater of misinformation and a purposeful vengeance against common sense. We clearly saw masks cut down transmission, and continue to see it when the rules are eased that things spike. Are you really that daft or just want to stir the pot and be the one shining idiot out there on the corner yelling at people in cars to go get a horse?

Greg F

PS...you are the jester in the kingdom here....foolish in every way.

WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot

josh, requiring me to wear a mask to "protect" you, vaxxed or not, is like requiring me to drive 10 mph to protect other drivers who refuse to wear a seatbelt.

I hope you are vaxxed and boosted.

WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot

Some musings on a drizzly Saturday.

Where are the deaths from Omicron variant?

Why is Biden's FDA sitting on the anti-viral drugs which knock out Covid like Tamiflu knocks out the seasonal flu? Could it be because it would mean the end of his vaccine and mask mandates?

The pandemic is slowing morphing into an endemic, but that doesn't sell headlines, clicks, or ratings.

The vaccine is readily available and anyone who hasn't taken advantage of the protection is on their own.

bhall74

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

jth7100

Tamiflu is not that effective for the flu. "Biden's FDA" ? You should just Sierra Tango Foxtrot Uniform.

threecents

Let's hope the death rate from Omicron remains low, but for right now, we have a surge in the pandemic. Also, endemic is an adjective, not a noun. In Frederick and elsewhere the numbers of Covid hospitalized is as high as ever - still around around 60 in Frederick, with 12 or so in the ICU. (There are only 19 beds in the Frederick ICU.) Do you predict the numbers will be higher or lower a couple weeks after Christmas? Absolutely ridiculous to say Biden is sitting on the new treatments. The federal government has subsidized production of these and is awaiting FDA approval on them. Biden does not run the FDA. I agree that everyone should be taking advantage of the vaccines. Glad that some of your kind are finally on board with that.

WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot

"Biden does not run the FDA.".......Is the head of the FDA not a political appointee?

gabrielshorn2013

Yes, W. T. F., the commissioner is a political appointee. However, they are not in the approval process at all. I know Janet Woodcock professionally, and she lets the science talk.

Funny thing, FNP considers tour handle profanity and won't let me respond without modification. Well done sir!

WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot

Thanks. Didn't the FNP have a column in the 72 Hours titled by the letters only, and then they changed it to Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

threecents

The Merck pill is looking like a bust, but the Pfizer pill could be a game changer. Still waiting to see if the FDA approves it or not. How long the process takes is not up to Biden.

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-03667-0

https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/pfizer-says-covid-19-pill-near-90-effective-final-analysis-2021-12-14/

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