On Tuesday, the Charles County Board of Commissioners met virtually and received an update on COVID-19 related affairs, courtesy of Dr. Howard Haft, executive director for the Maryland Primary Care Program, and Michelle Lilly, the county’s department of emergency services director.
In the timeframe of July 13 to July 20, positive COVID-19 cases in the county declined from 76 to 47. Additionally, there were no newly reported coronavirus-related deaths in the county during that span.
“Emergency Services continues to monitor COVID in the county,” Lilly said. “We have had 47 COVID-positive over the past three days ... One [death] last week and none so far this week.”
Lilly said expanding testing is one of the county’s top priorities..
“Last week, we ended with 1,800 negative testes,” Lilly said, adding that there were “641 negative tests so far this week. ... The previous two weeks were stable.”
According to the Maryland Department of Health, Charles County has reported 1,642 cases of COVID-19 as well as 88 deaths, as of Wednesday morning.
The average number of Charles Regional Medical Center COVID-positive patients from July 13 to July 20, however, reportedly rose from three to five.
The total reported number of persons transported in emergency medical services vehicles from July 13 to July 20 was five, peaking with two people on July 17.
“Confirmed COVID-positive transports average around one per day since the month of July,” Lilly said. “The EMS will continue to monitor data trends and continue to provide sit reps three times per week.”
Haft said there are clearly a great number of “hotspots” in the country — Charles County not being one — but stated if the citizens of the county do not adhere to guidelines such as wearing masks in businesses and social distancing, health impacts are imminent.
“We are not immune from suffering the same kinds of consequences from failing to heed those precautions,” Haft said. “The things that are important — and will continue to be important — are adhering to guidelines of business and industry.”
Haft acknowledged some people possess an inherent need to depart from their residence once “cabin fever” strikes, but said citizens must conform to the imposed health guidelines when there is a potential for social interaction.
“The orders provide a framework for good care, and providing health for the county and state,” Haft said. “What is also important right now is to make sure the public understand — and adheres to — facial coverings, social distancing and hygiene ... We don’t want to move backwards.”
Haft informed the viewers of the broadcast that testing and contact tracing are two fundamental concepts crucial for nixing the spread of the virus, adding that the county has been testing about 400 people a day, with 500 a day being the goal.
“Testing is critical. It allows us to identify asymptomatic individuals who are likely to spread this disease to others,” Haft said. “You can pass it onto others even if you are totally asymptomatic.”
The positivity rate in the county, Haft said, is stable.
“In terms of positivity rate, we have been hovering between 5.5% and 5.7%, which is better than it has been previously. We have tested about 9.8% of the population in the county. Our target is at 10%.”
Jenifer Elin, director for the department of fiscal and administrative services said the county does have its share of the CARES Act funding. However, she added there are a lot of pending items.
“We were told this plan is fluid and can change ... We do have a lot of pending items and a lot of unknown estimates,” Elin said. “Public works has been getting our buildings ready for reopening.”
The CARES Act is set to distribute funding for an array of COVID-related needs in the county, including medical expenses totaling $1.81 million, public health expenses totaling $2.95 million and protective barriers to be installed at the Charles County Circuit Court building, totaling $6,684.
The county is in the process of applying for funding of some necessities such as PPE equipment, decontamination of ambulances and expenses for quarantining first responders and vulnerable members of the population.
Additionally, the state of emergency in Charles County — which was set to expire on July 29 — was extended to Aug. 28.