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by Judith Hruz
County officials have issued no mandates on wearing masks in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 but are urging residents to willingly do so as the number of cases increases in Montgomery, the regional and elsewhere in the country.
Sherwood Elementary School in Sandy Spring had required its students, teachers and staff to wear masks, however, as the number of COVID-19 cases rose over a 10-day period this month.
According to Montgomery County Public Schools data, 64 cases of the coronavirus were reported at the school as of May 17, equaling 11.6 percent of the students and staff
Sherwood Elementary, with the highest number of cases in the school system, was the first school to reinstate the mask-wearing mandate. At press time, no others had begun the mask requirement.
The current strains of the coronavirus are again on the rise and registered 355 per 100,000 people over the last seven days leading up to May 17.
Test positivity rates and hospitalizations also increased, although test positivity rates and likely not an accurate number given how many people are taking home tests and not reporting the results.
The county reported 87 hospitalized COVID-19 patients as of May 16. Acute care occupancy (47) and ICU bed occupancy (seven) increased slightly from the previous week (up 7 and up 2, respectively).
For real-time updates, visit the COVID-19 Surveillance Dashboard at https://www.montaomervcountymd.gov/covid19/data/.
“Remain vigilant,” County Executive Marc Elrich said during his May 18 media briefing.
County officials said the current strains of COVID-19 are more contagious than other strains.
“Our current surge in cases is lasting longer than expected, which leaves more people at-risk of being exposed to COVID-19,” Elrich said. “I encourage everyone to wear masks indoors in public spaces when possible as well as continue to use our ample testing and vaccination resources we have in the county.”
The county’s COVID-19 case rate has risen steadily over the last month and is now more than triple the low on March 15.
Based on the advice of Acting Health Officer James Bridgers, it is strongly recommended that residents voluntarily engage in the following precautionary measures to slow transmission, protect most vulnerable populations and keep hospitalizations down:
Use a well-fitting face covering during visits to congregate places and indoor spaces with limited social distancing;
Use testing and test-to-treat antiviral medication after returning from travel or gatherings; and
Stay up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations, including booster-shots.
Health officer update
The most recent candidate for the position of health officer in Montgomery County has backed out.
The recent candidate had been vetted by the county executive and the Maryland Department of Health and was sent on to the Montgomery County Council for approval.
Although he gave no specific reason for the county losing the candidate, Elrich said there is “hesitancy to step into something that can be highly controversial.”
Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles left the county last September. He had received vitriolic comments during the pandemic.
Elrich said the delay in hiring another official is also because there is “a lot of competition for health officers.”
The county will continue its search.
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