The COVID-19 surge in Prince George’s County, Maryland, is coming into view as the state’s database rebounds following a cyberattack earlier in December.
While county-level data is still not available, County Executive Angela Alsobrooks reported on what Prince George’s is likely experiencing from the data she could gleam from the state.
She said that Maryland has experienced an increase of 28,341 cases since Dec. 3, causing the state’s positivity rate to jump from 5.4% to nearly 10.3% as of Dec. 20 — an increase of 89% during that time, per Alsobrooks.
An additional 6,200 cases were reported throughout the state Tuesday morning.
“This I don’t have to tell you is extremely concerning,” Alsobrooks said. “And we know that the surge is a statewide surge.”
Prince George’s has also been piecing together its situation based on how regional neighbors in D.C. and Northern Virginia are faring.
Alsobrooks said that as of Nov. 20, the weekly case rate in D.C. per 100,000 residents was under 100 cases. A month later, Alsobrooks said that it’s at 356 cases.
The weekly case rate was 63 cases in Fairfax County last month, and now it’s at 160 cases, according to Alsobrooks.
And in Alexandria, Alsobrooks said that its weekly case rate of 77 cases on Nov. 20 jumped to over 280 cases in the month since.
Prince George’s public schools are well acquainted with the surge. Dr. Monica Goldson, the school system’s CEO, revealed that 994 students and 261 teacher’s have tested positive for the virus in the past week.
That resulted in county schools placing approximately 16,778 students and 492 staff members in quarantine, according to Goldson.
“The large number of students and staff quarantined along with COVID-19 cases, compounded by ongoing staff shortages, began to significantly impact learning and became disruptive to our school environment,” Goldson said. “This led to the decision that I made last Friday to temporarily shift to virtual learning.”
Goldson discussed the criteria outlined by the Maryland Department of Health for a temporary suspension of in-person learning, which includes evidence of substantial transmission in schools.
The superintendent also said that more time is needed to identify, notify and exclude close contacts. She said that when the decision to suspend in-person was made last week, each of those factors was considered.
“This is a temporary halt to in person learning. It is not a halt to meaningful teaching,” Goldson said, who acknowledged that the timing was not ideal, but thanked parents for their flexibility.
Students and staff will return for in-person learning on Jan. 18.
Dr. Ernest Carter, the county’s health officer, offered some cautious optimism.
He made mention of the omicron variant’s rapid spread — going from 0.3% of all U.S. cases just two weeks ago to 3% last week to now being 73% of new cases in most recent analyses — the disease’s transmissibility, even in the vaccinated, seems to come at the expense of its severity.
“If you’ve been boosted and you’ve had your vaccine, you still can get omicron,” Carter said. “But that’s OK, because preliminary data shows that, even if you get omicron, you’ll get a mild form if you’re boosted and your vaccinated.”
Carter cited preliminary data again to say that the illness is not nearly as severe for those who’ve been inoculated as opposed to those who haven’t been.
However, he did hedge somewhat by saying that rising case counts will lead to more hospitalizations. Carter mentioned that process is underway as reflected by the county’s hospital capacity.
While they aren’t overburdened at this time, standing at 43%, he also pointed out that this number is a 23% increase from Thursday to Sunday, when the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 went up from 116 to 145.
Data provided by the state says that 64% of Prince George’s County residents have received one dose of the vaccine, and 56% have been fully vaccinated.
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