Montgomery County, Maryland, has seen an uptick in the number of new cases of the coronavirus this week.
On Monday, the county reported 95 new cases. By midday Tuesday, the count of new cases hit 121.
Earl Stoddard, director of the county’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, cautioned against alarm, saying the daily count is “not skyrocketing; it’s not major breaking news,” but added, “We are on a slow climb up” in the number of new cases, which he said should be expected as cold weather sets in and people spend more time indoors.
Dr. James Bridgers, Deputy Health Officer for Montgomery County, told the council at Tuesday’s briefing that his own father had tested positive for COVID-19. Bridgers said he immediately directed his father to contact his doctor, and began the process of tracing contacts his father had, including visits with Bridger’s centenarian grandparents.
“It’s very important when you receive a call regarding contact tracing, to follow up and share and provide information as best as possible,” Bridgers said. He said that the uptick in cases is prompting a review of current county policies on COVID-19, and he encouraged people to get tested.
Council member Tom Hucker asked about the messaging on testing, and said it appears it’s not penetrating some communities.
“We still need people to get tested whether or not they have symptoms, right?” Hucker asked.
Hucker mentioned that when he and fellow council member Gabe Albornoz posted the results of their own COVID-19 cases on social media, it prompted questions from people asking if Hucker and Albornoz had been sick.
“I think that mentality is out there a lot,” said Hucker, of his many constituents who believe that testing isn’t needed unless there’s a problem.
Hucker also said that many residents — including front line workers from whom he hears — feel that getting tested is just another thing they have to do at a time when they are busy with work and family obligations.
“I think we need to push everybody past that,” said Hucker, who asked, “Do we know what percentage of cases are asymptomatic?”
Stoddard said the number of asymptomatic people who test positive for COVID-19 is in the 25-50% range. Hucker replied, “We’re telling people to vote these days and to be in the census — we’ve got to tell them no matter how they’re feeling day-to-day, to put it on the calendar and go get tested.”
Stoddard said the data on COVID-19 in the county continues to show that most of the transmission occurs as the result of family gatherings.
“No one goes to a family gathering intending to expose their loved ones to COVID-19,” but Stoddard said people need to start planning now for the fall and winter when so many families get together for Thanksgiving and other holidays.
Stoddard said the county could urge people not to hold get-togethers over the holidays, but likened that to abstinence-based sexual education.
“We know that people are going to do it,” he said.
Instead, Stoddard recommended that families form “mini-bubbles like the NBA and the NHL did, where you go and get tested.” Then he said, “If you’re going to be with your family, think about how you plan it out so you minimize your exposure.”
- Sign up for WTOP alerts
- Latest coronavirus test results in DC, Maryland and Virginia
- Coronavirus FAQ: What you need to know
- Coronavirus resources: Get and give help in DC, Maryland and Virginia
- U.Va. to give option of course credit instead of letter grade
- Pandemic-related stress may be triggering migraines in teenagers
- Number of divorce cases in DC area surge amid coronavirus pandemic