The number of cases of the coronavirus in Montgomery County, Maryland, increased from five to 12 this weekend, health officials said. The spike is likely the result of expanded testing conducted at private labs, officials noted.
Montgomery County accounts for 12 of the 31 patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Maryland as of Sunday afternoon.
The increase in cases is likely the result of independent labs now having the ability to test for the virus, said Dr. Travis Gayles, the county’s health officer.
Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp have started testing within the last week, Gayles said.
Until last week, all tests had been processed through the state and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Gayles said. Independent practitioners now have the ability to send coronavirus tests to those private labs.
At a news conference Sunday, Vice President Mike Pence said additional testing should become available nationwide. About 2,000 labs in the U.S. have “quicker and higher volume,” Pence said.
Because testing will become more widespread, Gayles said, the number of cases in the county and state is likely to increase.
Still, people who suspect they might have the virus but aren’t exhibiting symptoms and don’t meet the travel history requirements to be tested will not be tested, Gayles said.
“We are not at a time where we’re offering general testing for anyone who wants to know their status,” Gayles said.
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Gayles said the county received reports over the weekend that “in some spaces, there have been physical altercations and lots of upset feelings expressed, and in some cases law enforcement had to be called in to defuse the situation.”
County Executive Marc Elrich urged Montgomery County residents to practice social distancing and be proactive, echoing comments made by state and national officials.
He also spoke directly to the county’s kids, whose schools have been closed.
“These are not snow days,” Elrich said. “This is not time off that people are getting so they can have a vacation. This isn’t spring break. This is really serious.
“Even though you’ve heard younger people don’t necessarily get as sick, you have to understand that younger people, because they’re not as sick, may not be identified as carrying the virus and could easily be carriers of the virus and so its really important to take this seriously.”
Watch the full news conference in the video below.
WTOP’s Michelle Murillo contributed to this report.