Jan. 24—Frederick County's coronavirus case rate continued trending downward over the weekend, bolstering signs that infections caused by the pandemic's most recent wave — powered by the highly contagious omicron variant — have peaked locally.
The county logged 133 new cases on Sunday, a far cry from the record 868 new cases it added on Jan. 12. As of Friday, the last day for which data was available on the county's COVID-19 data tracker, the local case rate sat at 98.78 per 100,000 residents, a dramatic drop since the crest of 246.67 per 100,000 on Jan. 8.
Still, transmission levels remain above where they stood before omicron began circulating in the community last month. At the end of November, the county was adding fewer than 100 cases per day, and its case rate stood at 22.02 per 100,000.
Positivity levels increased slightly from Friday, though they remain below measures seen earlier this month, when they peaked at 33.85 percent. Sunday's rate sat at 23.75 percent, up from 22.53 percent on Friday.
The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 have also been decreasing in Frederick County. As of Sunday morning, Frederick Health Hospital was treating 87 people diagnosed with the virus, a drop from 92 on Saturday and nearly 30 fewer than the hospital had been treating on Jan. 17.
Though the county recorded no new deaths from the virus on Sunday, it saw an increase in this metric last week, when it recorded 16 new deaths between Jan. 17 and Friday. At Thursday's Board of Health meeting, county Health Officer Dr. Barbara Brookmyer explained that though omicron may trend toward causing less severe illnesses, because it is so infectious, it has still filled hospitals with unprecedented numbers of patients.
"A smaller percentage of a bigger number is still a big number," she said at the meeting.
Frederick Health Hospital remained under crisis standards of care as of Sunday, a shift it made earlier this month to cope with dramatic levels of patients and staffing shortages. Taking this step allowed the hospital the flexibility to channel its limited resources toward those with the highest levels of need.
Also at Thursday's health board meeting, Frederick Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kathy Weishaar shared that the health system is currently developing a referral system for the distribution of Evusheld — an injectable medication meant to prevent severely immunocompromised patients from getting COVID-19.
Similar to the process for monoclonal antibody therapy, Weishaar said patients will be referred for the treatment through their care providers. Since the supply of the medication remains limited, Frederick Health will be prioritizing those with the highest level of need for the treatment, Weishaar said.
"So, it's taking the pool of immunocompromised and then determining who's most severely immunocompromised and then trying to direct the resources there," she said, "and then hopefully the supply of that medication will increase at some point and we could cast a broader net, a wider net at that point."
Oral therapeutics effective as treatment for COVID-19 — Molnupiravir and Paxlovid — are also now available at two Walgreens in Frederick, Brookmyer said at Thursday's meeting. She added that the county is still waiting for more information from the state about when it will make KN95 and N95 masks available for mass distribution at local health departments.
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