Montgomery Co. sees COVID cases plateau, but new subvariants raise concern

After months of COVID-19 case rates steadily increasing in Montgomery County, Maryland, it appears that trend could finally be starting to plateau.

The latest data shows that there have been over 405 cases for every 100,000 residents over the last seven days. And during the county’s weekly pandemic briefing on Wednesday, County Executive Marc Elrich said the percentage of hospital beds occupied by COVID patients also appears to be declining after spiking by 25% over the last two weeks.

As of May 25, the percentage of county hospital beds occupied by COVID patients was just over 7%.

“It’s good to see that we still have a reasonable number of vacant beds,” Elrich said, “because the concern has always been what would happen if there was a surge and a lot of people got sick, and we didn’t have beds, so we’re in a better place than we’ve been.”

But two new omicron subvariants – BA.4 and BA.5 – will probably fuel yet another rise in cases, Elrich said. Since they emerged about a month ago, the variants appear to have dodged immunity generated by the BA.1 and BA.2 subvariants.

“That also applies to people who have been vaccinated,” he added.

So far, a few cases of BA.4 have been detected in Maryland, said Sean O’Donnell, the county’s health and human services public health emergency preparedness manager. Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most of the county’s cases are of an earlier subvariant – BA.2.12.1.

The effectiveness of vaccines is reflected in infection rates: Unvaccinated residents have twice the rate of infection when compared with vaccinated residents, O’Donnell said.

Elrich reminded residents to stay updated on their vaccinations: “While you may experience a breakthrough case, the seriousness of a breakthrough case for vaccinated people is still lower than it is for those who are not vaccinated,” he said.

And Elrich added that residents should also keep that mask handy to wear inside public indoor spaces.

“They all work, and it’s helped to keep everyone safer,” Elrich said.

Jack Pointer

Jack contributes to when he's not working as the afternoon/evening radio writer. In a previous life, he helped edit The Dallas Morning News and Chicago Tribune.

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