Rate of new COVID-19 cases dropping across Tri-State, but positivity rates still high

Registered nurse Silvia Petrick administers a COVID-19 test at the drive-thru screening center behind Meritus Medical Plaza on Crayton Boulevard just north of Hagerstown on October 28, 2021.
·7 min read

The number of new reported cases of COVID-19 in the Tri-State region fell last week, and the positivity rate declined slightly in most area counties.

But the data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as Johns Hopkins University, also showed there were at least 43 deaths attributed to the virus that causes COVID-19.

At the same time, hospitalizations that had been trending upward are declining. For example, on Friday, Meritus Medical Center near Hagerstown reported 99 of its 287 patients had COVID-19 — almost 35%.

On Monday around 2 p.m., it reported 78 of 294 beds were taken by COVID patients — nearly 27%. The hospital can stretch to hold about 330 patients.

"Meritus Medical Center reached an all time high last week with COVID-19 admissions, with 99 patients in our care on Friday. This isn’t good news," Carrie Adams, chief operating officer at Meritus, wrote in an email Monday.

"While we continue to see high admissions related to COVID-19, we are also caring for chronic conditions and illnesses that require acute care stays. We have not seen any significant decrease in COVID hospitalizations yet," she said. We will know more in the next several days if we have plateaued at almost 100 COVID hospitalizations. We are starting to see a slight decline in positivity rate from the Meritus Medical Lab data. Unlike the rest of Maryland, we have not seen the same decline in hospitalizations."

She wrote that Meritus encourages "everyone to stay safe — wear a mask, wash your hand and please get vaccinated."

Gov. Larry Hogan said Monday that COVID-19 hospitalizations in Maryland were dropping at the fastest rate in the United States. Since peaking at 3,462 on Jan. 11, hospitalizations have dropped by 32.6% to 2,330, according to a news release from Hogan's office. Maryland is one of eight states where COVID-19 hospitalizations have declined over the last two weeks.

He also issued an executive order that:

  • Provides more licensing flexibility for pharmacists and technicians to help support the pharmacy workforce. Pharmacies are conducting a number of critical COVID-19 functions, including testing and vaccination clinics.

  • Expands the state’s initiative to allow nursing students to serve as licensed practitioners by also including licensed practical nurses (LPNs), certified nursing assistants (CNAs), and certified medical technicians (CMTs).

  • Allows respiratory therapy students to assist in augmenting the emergency medical services (EMS) workforce.

"This order allows our nursing students who just graduated in December to work as nursing graduates until they can get their nursing license," Karen Hammond, director of nursing at Hagerstown Community College, wrote in an email Monday. "This order comes at a good time because, due to a recent statewide hack, the Maryland Board of Nursing is unable to give license numbers to those who recently have taken and passed the NCLEX (the National Council Licensure Examination)."

Previously: Rate of new COVID cases climb in Franklin, Fulton while cases fall in other Tri-State counties

Find out: COVID vaccine and testing clinics in Washington County for the week of Jan. 24

Where can I get a COVID test or vaccination?

The Washington County Health Department and Meritus Health have several COVID-19 vaccination clinics scheduled this week and they continue to have testing sites. Walk-ins are welcome or register to make an appointment by calling 240-313-3456 or going to the county health department's website, washcohealth.org.

The county health department has scheduled the following vaccine clinics:

  • Tuesday, Jan. 25: 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Boonsboro American Legion, 710 N. Main St.

  • Wednesday, Jan. 26: 1 to 7 p.m. at the Washington County Health Department, 1302 Pennsylvania Ave., Hagerstown. UPDATE: This clinic has been changed to be for ages 5 to 11 only.

  • Thursday, Jan. 27: 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the Brownsville Church of the Brethren, 1911 Rohrersville Road, south of Rohrersville.

  • Friday, Jan. 28: NEW CLINIC scheduled for 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Robert Johnson Community Center, 109 W. North Ave. in Hagerstown.

  • Friday: 4 to 7 p.m. at Clear Spring Middle School, 12628 Broadfording Road, for ages 5 to 11 only.

Meritus Health has scheduled mobile clinics to provide vaccines and booster shots to ages 12 and older. According to Meritus' website, the schedule for this week is:

  • Tuesday, Jan. 25: 9 a.m. to noon at the Boonsboro AC&T, 713 N. Main St.

  • Wednesday, Jan. 26: 9 a.m. to noon at the Hagerstown YMCA, 1100 Eastern Blvd. North

  • Wednesday: 3 to 5:30 p.m. at The Children's Doctor, 319 E. Antietam St.

Meritus also offers walk-up and by-appointment vaccinations from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays in the Robinwood Professional Center atrium, 11110 Medical Campus Road, east of Hagerstown. These appointments are for ages 12 and older.

To schedule an appointment, email COVID.vaccine@meritushealth.com.

Meritus is offering walk-in vaccine clinics for children 5 and older in the atrium from noon to 4:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, according to its website.

What are the statistics for the Tri-State area?

Many counties did not report data during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, disrupting the current and previous week's statistics, an analysis by USA TODAY Network found. Week-to-week comparisons are skewed.

The numbers also don't take into account positives from at-home testing kits.

However, the figures offer the best picture of where things stand with the virus in the region.

Here's a look at the data for the Tri-State area:

Washington County

  • New cases reported in the week that ended Sunday: 1,129

  • New cases reported during the week that ended Jan. 16: 2,018

  • Percent decrease: 44.1%

  • Positivity rate: 30.15%

  • Number of deaths reported in the past week: 17

  • Number of deaths in the week that ended Jan. 16: 11

  • The county has recorded 31,832 cases and 514 deaths during the pandemic.

  • Percent of county population fully vaccinated as of Monday: 57.2%

  • Percent of Marylanders fully vaccinated as of Monday: 72.2%

Franklin County, Pa.

  • New cases reported in the week that ended Sunday: 1,891

  • New cases reported during the week that ended Jan. 16: 2,773

  • Percent decrease: 31.8%

  • Positivity rate: 32.53%

  • Number of deaths reported in the past week: 11

  • Number of deaths in the week that ended Jan. 16: 18

  • The county has recorded 36,871 cases and 602 deaths during the pandemic.

  • Percent of county population fully vaccinated as of Monday: 47.3%

  • Percent of Pennsylvanians fully vaccinated as of Monday: 65.4%

Fulton County, Pa.

  • New cases reported in the week that ended Sunday: 182

  • New cases reported during the week that ended Jan. 16: 211

  • Percent decrease: 13.7%

  • Positivity rate: 29.32%

  • Number of deaths reported in the past week: 11

  • Number of deaths in the week that ended Jan. 16: 18

  • The county has recorded 3,716 cases and 56 deaths during the pandemic.

  • Percent of county population fully vaccinated as of Monday: 34.7%

  • Percent of Pennsylvanians fully vaccinated as of Monday: 65.4%

Berkeley County, W.Va.

  • New cases reported in the week that ended Sunday: 1,838

  • New cases reported during the week that ended Jan. 16: 2,383

  • Percent decrease: 22.9%

  • Positivity rate: 35.84%

  • Number of deaths reported in the past week: 7

  • Number of deaths in the week that ended Jan. 16: 3

  • The county has recorded 32,812 cases and 229 deaths during the pandemic.

  • Percent of county population fully vaccinated as of Monday: 52.7%

  • Percent of West Virginians fully vaccinated as of Monday: 55.9%

Jefferson County, W.Va.

  • New cases reported in the week that ended Sunday: 792

  • New cases reported during the week that ended Jan. 16: 1,239

  • Percent decrease: 36.1%

  • Positivity rate: 31.49%

  • Number of deaths reported in the past week: 5

  • Number of deaths in the week that ended Jan. 16: 5

  • The county has recorded 13,001 cases and 110 deaths during the pandemic.

  • Percent of county population fully vaccinated as of Monday: 61%

  • Percent of West Virginians fully vaccinated as of Monday: 55.9%

Morgan County, W.Va.

  • New cases reported in the week that ended Sunday: 268

  • New cases reported during the week that ended Jan. 16: 358

  • Percent decrease: 25.1%

  • Positivity rate: 35.75%

  • Number of deaths reported in the past week: 0

  • Number of deaths in the week that ended Jan. 16: 0

  • The county has recorded 3,866 cases and 57 deaths during the pandemic.

  • Percent of county population fully vaccinated as of Monday: 39.5%

  • Percent of West Virginians fully vaccinated as of Monday: 55.9%

>> See how your community has fared with recent coronavirus cases

>> Track coronavirus cases across the United States

Herald-Mail reporter Mike Lewis and USA Today Network reporter Mike Stucka contributed to this story.

This article originally appeared on The Herald-Mail: Tri-State region sees drop in new COVID cases; positivity rate still up

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