Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said Wednesday that schools with COVID-19 outbreaks will be pausing sports for 14 days, citing the high increase in new infections in recent days. County schools reported 518 new COVID-19 cases between Dec. 4 and Dec. 12, according to Mr. Elrich. Comparatively, county schools reported 1,036 coronavirus infections from the start of the school year to Nov. 19, he said.
Five schools have paused basketball, gymnastics, wrestling and indoor track, among other sports programs: Colonel Zadok Magruder High School in Rockville, James Hubert Blake High School in Colesville, Paint Branch High School in Burtonsville, Poolesville High School and Sherwood High School in Sandy Spring.
Mr. Elrich said the mask mandate should remain in effect for the rest of the year, although it’s possible the county will meet the 85% vaccination threshold for lifting the mandate since about 82% of residents are fully vaccinated.
However, Mr. Elrich said he asked the county council to meet to discuss and review the terms of the mask mandate, noting that the 85% mark was based on the goal of reaching herd immunity.
According to the Maryland Department of Health, hospitalizations statewide have climbed 47% since Dec. 3, from 782 to 1,151 as of Tuesday. Nursing homes have experienced 107 outbreaks (up 19% from the previous week), assisted living facilities 57 outbreaks (up 16%), child care facilities 54 outbreaks (up 42%) and group homes 46 outbreaks (up 24%).
On Wednesday, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced more steps to tackle the potential surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations due to the simultaneous spread of the delta and omicron variants.
The state has set up a surge operation center to handle a COVID-19 surge at hospitals including the possible sudden influx of unvaccinated patients, according to the governor. The center will help facilitate emergency department patient transfers to alleviate hospital capacity and maintain intensive care unit transfers among other tasks.
State health officials also issued an order requiring hospitals to make all staffed bed capacity available and cut down on scheduling non-urgent medical surgeries that need an overnight stay if they reach 1,200 hospitalizations. If hospitalizations reach 1,500, hospitals are required to kick-start their pandemic plans.
State officials are trying to increase health care staffing at hospitals by allowing temporary licensees for retired healthcare professionals and easing administrative burdens for out-of-state or interstate compact health care providers to practice in the state.
“We are continuing to closely monitor the rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations and use every tool at our disposal to make sure our hospitals have the resources they need to prepare for this and future surges,” said Mr. Hogan. “These are important actions, but getting vaccinated or boosted continues to be the single most important thing Marylanders can do to protect against these dangerous COVID-19 variants.”
The Maryland Board of Physicians has approved the proposed emergency regulations, but the Maryland General Assembly must still review the policies before they can take effect as soon as Jan. 1.
Virginia reported an increase in new COVID-19 cases last week compared to the previous week, the most recent state health data shows.
The state reported about 186 cases per 100,000 residents over seven days from Dec. 5 to Dec. 11, up from 74 cases per 100,000 residents from Nov. 28 to Dec. 5. Hospitalizations also have gradually climbed. The state reported a seven-day moving average of 1,286 hospitalizations Wednesday, an increase from an average of 922 on Dec. 1.
Meanwhile, the District is seeing more COVID-19 infections but a decline in hospitalizations, according to city health data. As of Tuesday, the District reported a weekly case rate of about 204 infections per 100,000 residents, up from 74 the previous month. However, hospitalizations from COVID-19 have dropped to 4.2% from 5.7% the month prior.
For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.