Blips or trends? Montgomery Co. health officials keep eye on COVID-19 numbers

Montgomery County, Maryland’s latest COVID-19 numbers show that the rolling three-day average of confirmed cases is holding at 90, with the one-day report for Tuesday at 94 new cases. And the number of COVID-19 deaths in the county is 821, with the latest death reported Tuesday.

County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles told members of the Montgomery County Council that he remains concerned that the numbers may be indicative of the start of a surge that’s been predicted as cold weather keeps more people indoors, where the novel coronavirus is more easily spread.

“I don’t want to scare folks,” Gayles told the council, but he said he wanted to “level-set expectations” by explaining that some of the recent efforts to loosen restrictions could be reversed.

Earl Stoddard, the county’s director of the Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, echoed Gayles.

Stoddard said one of the first things that could happen is that the county’s late-night alcohol sales policy could be reversed. County Executive Marc Elrich issued an order earlier this month allowing alcohol sales after 10 p.m. for restaurants who applied for permits and had not been subject to citations for violating any of the county’s COVID-19 restrictions.

Stoddard made clear the county would go further if necessary. “We are discussing broader pullbacks if necessary, and are simply looking at this week’s data to figure out whether we’re in a steady increase” of new COVID-19 cases, or if, in Stoddard’s words, the recent data shows “a blip in a series of blips.”

Stoddard also said his office is working with Gayles and the county’s elections board to prepare for the opening of early voting places, as well as how to handle voter traffic on Election Day.

Gayles and Stoddard were asked about testing and the public’s understanding of access to the county’s free tests.

Montgomery County Council member Gabe Albornoz noted that after he posted about his recent test, he was “hammered” on social media for getting a test even though he didn’t have symptoms.

Albornoz, who tested negative, said that it appeared residents felt he had “used up” a limited resource.

Stoddard said in response that he was eager to knock down rumors that there was any restriction on the number of free tests offered at the county’s testing sites.

“Those rumors are certainly out there, and we have to counter them as much as we can,” he said.

Stoddard added, “If you’re a front-line worker, we certainly recommend you be tested multiple times on a regular basis based on how many people you interact with.”

Any county resident can get tested, he said; “There is no limit on the number of free tests you can get in Montgomery County at all.”

For information on testing around the area, visit these websites:

More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

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