Yesterday, Howard County reported the highest seven-day average of 15.8 cases per 100,000 people, a dramatic increase from 9.6 cases per 100k on November 3, 2020. Governor Hogan announced this evening that effective tomorrow, November 11 at 5:00 p.m. indoor bars and restaurant capacity will be reduced from 75% to 50%. Customers must be seated to be served. The Governor also expanded his travel advisory to avoid all out-of-state travel that is non-essential, especially to states with a positivity rate of more than 10%. All employers are strongly encouraged to have employees telework that are non-essential. The Maryland Health Department issued guidance to avoid indoor gatherings of 25 people or more.   

“Our numbers make it very clear – we’re at a pivotal point in this pandemic and the personal actions taken over the next few months will be critical in slowing the rapid spread we’re currently seeing,” said Ball. “Wearing a mask and maintaining physical distance are the best ways to prevent the spread of this virus, and we must practice these strategies in private and in public – that includes gatherings with family and friends. It’s natural to let your guard down among close family and friends, but that is where we’ve seen continued spread happen. We recognize that there is COVID-19 fatigue, but we cannot grow weary. If you leave your house, you should be wearing a mask. If you are around anyone outside your household, you should be wearing a mask, it’s that simple. Let’s protect one another.” 

The previous highest average of 12.7 cases per 100k was reported on August 1, 2020. The seven-day average positivity rate has also increased from 2.88% to 4.24% over the past week. Howard County is currently averaging just under 1,500 tests administered per day, with a rate of more than 6,000 tests per 10,000 people. 

With the cooler weather, and residents spending more time indoors, community spread is growing in Howard County. Even small family gatherings can be dangerous, and asymptomatic family members and friends can spread COVID-19 if they have been exposed. This will make the holidays difficult, but Howard County Health Officer Dr. Maura Rossman advises the following:  

1.    Avoid crowds, and limit your time in retail shops, restaurants, and bars 

2.    Plan outdoor events when possible 

3.    Limit the number of guests and the length of time you spend together 

4.    Remind your guests of your expectations, including wearing masks and distancing 

“Data shows that we continue to move in the wrong direction,” said Dr. Maura Rossman, Howard County Health Officer. “Everyone must adhere to the strategies we know will make a difference. More restrictions may be needed to save lives.”  

It’s natural for residents to be tired and frustrated with the restrictions that COVID-19 has placed on their daily lives. However, when mitigation measures are not practiced, there are more cases, more hospitalizations, and more deaths. It’s not yet time to give up on essential prevention measures like wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, and washing our hands often. Be safe, remain vigilant, and encourage your loved ones to do the same.  

As COVID-19 cases rise in Howard County, testing and contact tracing are critical to slowing the spread of this virus. If you think you may have been in contact with someone who is COVID positive, have recently traveled, attended a large gathering, or want a test for any other reason you can get tested in Howard County for free. Find a testing site at https://www.howardcountymd.gov/Departments/Health/MM-Alerts-and-Recalls/Coronavirus-Testing.  

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Scott E

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