As COVID-19 cases rise, Montgomery Co. updates indicators that would guide reopening rollback

Amid a rise in reported COVID-19 cases, Montgomery County, Maryland, updated the indicators its health department uses in case it needs to roll back on some of the reopening provisions allowed in Phase Two.

“We have been monitoring the uptick in cases to determine whether it was an anomaly, but the increase in cases has been consistent over the last few weeks,” Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles said.

The seven-day moving average case rate per 100,000 in the county has been on the rise starting Oct. 13, according to the Maryland coronavirus website.

The test positivity rate — the percentage of tests coming back positive for the virus — remains below a key global bench mark of 5%. In Montgomery County, it’s currently 3.1%

However, Gayles said his team is seeing concerning increases, particularly in people age 40 and older.

The primary indicators that the county will be analyzing are:

  • Daily case rate (seven-day average per 100,000 people)
  • Test positivity rate or percentage (during the last 14 days)
  • Rate of transmission

Secondary indicators to be evaluated include:

  • Percentage of change in new cases per 100,000 people (during the last seven days compared with the previous seven days)
  • Percentage of hospital inpatient beds that are occupied
  • Percentage of intensive care unit beds occupied
  • Percentage of hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients
  • Positive cases with contact tracking attempts
  • Positive cases that have been interviewed
  • Close contacts to positive cases where contact has been attempted.

“Our goal is to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 and these indicators will help us monitor the risk of transmission in the county,” Gayles said in a news release.

Montgomery County opted not to move into Phase Three when Maryland did last September because the community transmission rate of COVID-19 was still higher than the county’s health department was comfortable with proceeding. 

Businesses that are currently open with capacity and space restrictions in Phase Two include restaurants, retail, child care, gyms and hotels, as well as houses of worship. Senior centers, libraries and recreation facilities remain closed in Montgomery County.

Gayles said earlier this week that rather than issuing “blanket closures,” the county would likely start with tweaking capacity limits at businesses and gatherings.

“I don’t want to see us have to rollback any of the activities that we have reopened over the last three or four months,” County Executive Marc Elrich said in a statement.

The new indicators are available on the county’s website and will be updated daily.

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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