COVID Cases on the Rise, But Officials Not Recommending Mask Mandate

Although Montgomery County’s COVID-19 community level remains low, new cases have risen steadily during the past month and now are more than double a recent low on Nov. 28.

Two hundred and one new cases per 100,000 residents during the past seven days were reported to the county on Dec. 14. The county is experiencing one death per day, according to Sean O’Donnell, program manager for the county Office of Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response.

However, noted County Health Officer Kisha Davis, who is in her first week on the job, “We are not recommending a mask mandate at this time.”

O’Donnell noted during a news briefing Thursday, “We are trying to educate and enable people to educate themselves” on the importance of wearing masks when near groups of people and getting vaccinated and tested.

If there is an increase in deaths or if the capacity of hospital beds rises to a dangerous level, the county might return to a mask mandate, according to officials.

The percentage of hospital beds that were occupied is considered low at 75.5% utilization. As of Dec. 11, 9.83% of area hospital beds were occupied by people testing positive for COVID-19. That is considered low.

However, the county is considered in the high transmission range during the previous seven days for percentage of tests administered that came up positive. As of Dec. 13, the seven-day average was 12.47%.

With cases on the rise in this region, and an increase of influenza, county officials urge residents to take precautions, especially those who are traveling or attending holiday parties.

“Our current surge in cases is coming right before the holidays and with increased travel and gatherings, there is concern that transmission may increase and strain the health care system,” said County Executive Marc Elrich. “I encourage all residents to take extra precautions and to make sure they are up to date on vaccinations, including getting a flu vaccine. We want people to enjoy being with family and friends, but we want to do it safely.”

Davis, “strongly recommended” that people use well-fitting face covering when with multiple people. She also urged residents to test and stay current with their vaccinations and booster shots.

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