Officials in Montgomery County say about 30% of new coronavirus cases over the past month have been people aged 19 and younger.
Overall, of the roughly 3,500 coronavirus cases recorded in Maryland’s most populous county between Aug. 23 through Sept. 19 — more than 1,000 involved people in the 0-19 age group.
That figure, which county health officials said comes from new data from the Maryland Department of Health, largely tracks with statewide figures. Overall, Maryland residents 19 and younger make up about 22% of the total population, “meaning they’re now being impacted more than their proportionate share of the population,” County Executive Marc Elrich said during an online briefing with reporters.
A year ago, cases among residents 0-19 represented about 23% of the caseload, Elrich said.
“These are our children and we should be concerned by this number,” said Elrich, who noted students in the county returned to classrooms in large numbers last month for in-person learning, five days a week, for the first time since the pandemic began.
The school system returned with a number of COVID-19 safety protocols, including — after an initial delay in the rollout — the use of rapid tests to quickly identify confirmed positive cases and close contacts, who are required to quarantine.
Even with a larger share of the county’s cases hitting young people, the county’s acting health officer said hospitalizations among that age group remain exceedingly low.
“We haven’t seen the number of pediatric cases, those individuals who are presenting for respiratory illnesses or those individuals who are presenting for COVID-19-like symptoms, so that’s great,” said acting Health Officer James Bridgers.
Overall, the rate of transmission of the virus in the county is at a bit of a stalemate — still significantly higher than earlier in the summer, but lower than a few weeks ago, when the more contagious delta strain of the virus sent case counts soaring.
Montgomery County is one of the few counties in the broader D.C. region that is still rated as having “substantial” — rather than “high” — levels of COVID-19 transmission by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“While, it’s good to know that we’re doing comparatively well, we can’t ignore the fact that the delta variant has wreaked havoc on our nation and our state over the summer,” Elrich said. “Our case rates are higher now than they were this time last year, [when] we didn’t have a vaccine.”
‘Double down’ on employee vaccinations
During the briefing, Elrich also discussed the county’s efforts to get its employees vaccinated against COVID-19, saying county officials are working with union officials to chip away at the number of employees who still haven’t reported their vaccination status with the county as required by a mandate from the county council.
Last week was the deadline for county employees to report their vaccination status.
Overall, 77% of county employees have reported their vaccination status and are either fully or partially vaccinated, according to a county dashboard tracking employee vaccinations. About 6% of employees reported they are not vaccinated, and another 17% of workers have not reported their vaccination status.
Within specific departments, however, there are wider gaps specifically involving employees who have not reported their status.
At Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services, for example, 34.5% of employees have not submitted their vaccine information. The unreported figure is 30.7% for Correction and Rehabilitation employees, and for police department employees it’s 17.5%.
Elrich said the county’s working to get everyone vaccinated, but that many employees may have assumed that since they got vaccinations through the county, their vaccination records were already part of the database
“What we’re trying to do now is follow up with people and double down on trying to educate them and inform them about why need to get vaccinated,” he said.
Regarding vaccinations of the county’s overall population, the county ranks among the best in the nation with 88.3% of the eligible 12-and-older population fully vaccinated, and 97.2% having received at least one dose.
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