Montgomery County bulks up COVID tests as cases, hospitalizations increase

Montgomery County bulks up COVID tests as cases, hospitalizations increase

Montgomery County is ramping up its supply of COVID-19 tests as it records a steep increase in coronavirus infections.

The county’s positivity rate was nearly 27% as of Wednesday, according to County Executive Marc Elrich — a rate 10 times higher than about a month ago.

The county also recorded a case rate of about 1,800 infections per 100,000 residents in the last seven days, which is five times higher than the case rate from the 2020 winter surge, Mr. Elrich said.

The latest health data show that COVID-19 patients are occupying 31% of hospital inpatient beds in the county, which is double the percentage of beds filled with these patients on Christmas Eve.

“This is obviously serious and it needs to be treated like it’s serious. It’s a crisis, and there’s no dressing it up or treating it as such in this county,” Mr. Elrich said during Wednesday’s COVID-19 briefing.

In response to the winter surge, Montgomery County has ordered 1,144,000 rapid tests. A total of 392,000 kits have arrived or are arriving this week, and 100,000 rapid tests were given to the Montgomery County Public Schools warehouse Wednesday, said Sean O’Donnell, the county’s health and human services public health emergency preparedness manager.

He added that officials are still working to figure out a plan to distribute these test kits at libraries around the county.

Demand for testing has climbed over the last few months, data shows. County providers administered about 18,600 tests last week, up from about 12,000 administered the week of Dec. 13 and 4,600 from the week of Nov. 22. The number of tests given last week was three times more than what was administered at the height of the delta variant surge, according to Mr. Elrich.

The county executive announced last week that he tested positive for COVID-19. He said Wednesday that he‘s been feeling better each day although he has been dealing with a sore throat and fatigue. He said he and family are vaccinated and boosted, which he attributed as his reason for experiencing a mild illness as the omicron variant overtakes communities.

“This has not fully protected us from this highly contagious variant of the coronavirus, and I’m grateful that we all avoided the symptoms, severe symptoms, and the hospitalization,” Mr. Elrich said. “And frankly for that, we have the vaccines to thank.”

About 83.5% of the county’s population are fully vaccinated, according to Mr. Elrich.

Eleven public schools in Montgomery County on Wednesday began a 14-day period of virtual instruction after reaching the “red category” threshold of 5% positivity rate for COVID-19 cases.

The schools that switched to online learning are: Rock Terrace School, Cannon Road Elementary, North Chevy Chase Elementary, Hallie Wells Middle, Monocacy Elementary, Roberto Clemente Middle, Forest Knolls Elementary, Waters Landing Elementary, Rosemont Elementary, Seneca Valley High and Sherwood Elementary.

On Tuesday, the Montgomery County Council voted to extend the indoor mask mandate until at least 11:59 p.m. on Jan. 31.

The council will meet as the board of health every two weeks to review COVID-19 data and decide if the indoor mask mandate should stay in place.

The amended health regulation also revokes the provision that would automatically end the indoor mask mandate when 85% of the county’s population becomes fully inoculated. It also overturned the requirement to terminate the mask mandate when the county’s level of COVID-19 spread drops down to moderate.

For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.

Health, The New York Today