COVID-19 cases are spiking in Baltimore County.
County officials Monday warned that if the numbers don’t improve, new restrictions will need to be put in place, and that a possible vaccine would not be a panacea.
At a news conference in Towson, County Executive Johnny Olszewski said that in the past two weeks, the rate of cases in the county increased by 90%. It went from 10.7 to 20.4 per 100,000 residents.
During that same time, the positivity rate in the county increased by more than 70%. On Monday, the county’s positivity rate stood at 4.6%. On October 23 it was at 2.8%.
“In light of our collective crisis, the truth of the matter is that if residents don’t take this spike seriously, we must consider enacting new restrictions on gathering here in Baltimore County,” Olszewski said.
His remarks were similar to Gov. Larry Hogan’s warning last week that Marylanders should reinvigorate their efforts to stop the spread of the disease and “just wear the damn masks.”
New restrictions are going into place in Baltimore City later this week because of rising COVID numbers. Baltimore County’s COVID restrictions remain aligned with the state’s, but that could change.
“If residents don’t step up and if there’s not statewide action, we’ll be left with no choice but to consider taking those steps, and we think the next step would be gathering restrictions in Baltimore County,” Olszewski said.
Baltimore County Health Officer Dr. Gregory Branch urged residents to avoid large gatherings, even during the holidays.
“We have to assume that everyone that we come into contact with, even family and friends, is potentially spreading the virus,” Branch said.
Branch acknowledged that “everyone is getting tired” of dealing with COVID.
“But it remains imperative that we remain strong and vigilant,” Branch said.
He then reminded people to wear a mask, watch your distance, wash your hands and get a flu shot.
The drug maker Pfizer announced Monday that it is closing in on a safe, effective COVID-19 vaccine that could be available by the end of the year. But Branch said despite that, people must remain vigilant.
“It’s going to take time for us to get it into everyone’s arm,” Branch said. “And we have to remember because this is a new vaccine, everyone’s going to need to first shot, and then everyone’s going to need to have a booster shot.”
Olszewski also announced today that $11.5 million in CARES Act funding will be divvied up between county school principals to spend on preparations for students eventually returning to classrooms. This includes buying needed personal protective equipment, sanitizers and air purifiers.
It is uncertain, however, when students will be returning. The county’s four schools for severely disabled students were scheduled to reopen next Monday. They would have been the first county schools to reopen since school buildings statewide were closed in March. Last week, Baltimore County Public Schools put the brakes on those students returning, citing rising COVID numbers.