Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said Wednesday that he is concerned about the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases both throughout the state and in the jurisdiction that he leads.
To make matters worse, Elrich noted that the county may not have a full picture of what is going on because the state’s COVID-19 tracking portal was hacked at the beginning of the month and was forced to shut down for two days.
“The numbers we do have are headed in the wrong direction,” Elrich said at a virtual news conference. “Across the state hospitalizations have increased 44% since December 3rd. And Montgomery County’s hospitalization rates are as high as they were back in April of this year.”
“We have had 253 outbreaks in schools, up 41% from the prior week. One-hundred-and-seven cases in nursing homes, up 19%. Assisting living centers, 57 outbreaks, up 16%. Child care, 54 outbreaks, up 42%. And groups homes, 46 outbreaks, up 24%,” Elrich added.
The county executive went on to say that statewide there has recently been a 29% increase in COVID-19 cases. That includes a 41% increase in COVID-19 cases in schools and childcare settings-a scenario that mirrors what is happening in Montgomery County.
Elrich relayed that between Saturday, December 4 and Sunday, December 12, there were 518 new COVID-19 cases in the county’s schools. By contrast, there were just 1,036 COVID-19 cases in the county’s schools from early September to late November, Elrich said.
The county executive said that even though COVID-19 cases are rapidly increasing in Montgomery County, the jurisdiction is still not as severely infected as much of the state and the nation at large.
And Elrich touted Montgomery County’s vaccination metrics as the best in the state, with 95% of the population having received at least one dose, and 82% having received both doses.
Still, Elrich strongly urged residents to get a booster shot as soon as possible and noted that Westfield Wheaton Mall will be holding a “Boosteramma” event on Saturday, Dec. 18 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. No appointment is necessary, and both first and second vaccine doses also will be given, Elrich said.
Dr. James Bridgers Jr., the county’s acting health officer, noted that due to an outbreak in schools’ athletic departments, a decision was made to halt sports events for a period of two weeks.
“We continue to assess any outbreaks with school sports daily and provide that guidance to MCPS in consultation with the Maryland Department of Health.”
Sean O’Donnell, the county’s public health emergency preparedness manager, echoed Elrich’s concern about the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases.
“When we look at Montgomery County, we are seeing increases in both our acute care hospitalizations, as well as now our ICU hospitalizations have gone up. We are at a census of 147 patients in our facilities that have been identified as having COVID-19 as one of their diagnoses.”
“These (cases) have continued to rise since mid-November. It has plateaued for the last few days. But it has been on the trajectory of increasing,” O’Donnell added.
Earl Stoddard, the county’s emergency management officer, addressed concerns related to the spread of the new omicron variant.
“I think we are still early in understanding it. But we can draw some more conclusions about the fact that obviously omicron is transmitting very quickly. And in several places, it is outpacing Delta. Some parts of that are okay. Some parts of that are less okay. It does seem to be less severe. Hospitalizations are there. ICU admissions and oxygenation requirements do not seem to be there as much.”