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Despite a trifecta of COVID-19, flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) patients are starting to fill up in local hospitals — Montgomery hospital and county officials say they’re currently handling the surge while bracing for more emergency room activity in the coming weeks. 

According to the county Department of Health and Human Services’ latest pulse report, there are 133.15 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people countywide — an increase from last week, but still in the low category as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Dr. Louis Damiano, president of Holy Cross Health Acute Care for Maryland, said that an increasing amount of RSV and flu cases are starting to fill emergency room departments — especially among children. Dozens of children have entered emergency rooms in recent weeks for those types of illnesses, according to county data.

“They affect different populations differently,” Damiano said. “RSV is primarily part of the pediatric population, the younger kids under the age of two. It also impacts the elderly as well. Flu is mostly in the age range from five to 24 [years old], although it will impact all ages, and COVID impacts all ages.”

At Holy Cross in Silver Spring and Germantown combined, Damiano said there have been 500 hospitalizations per month for upper respiratory infections in the past five or six months. Data provided by the county’s Department of Health and Human Services shows that emergency room activity has been increasing in recent weeks.

Overall, respiratory illness in Maryland has been “very high,” as of the most recent data provided by the Maryland Department of Health. About 50% of recent upper respiratory infections that Holy Cross hospitals are seeing is either RSV or the flu, Damiano said. 

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James Bridgers, the county’s acting health officer, and Earl Stoddard, an assistant chief administrative officer for the county, both said county officials will be monitoring hospital levels in the coming weeks. 

The County Council recently passed an appropriation of about $10 million to help with the anticipated surge in flu and RSV cases, Stoddard noted. That appropriation to primarily used 

“It’s not unusual to see surges in respiratory illnesses around this time of year,” Stoddard said. “It’s just obviously with fewer masks being utilized and … people not necessarily strictly adhering to those non-pharmaceutical interventions … as they have in previous years, you’re just going to see a bit of a spike.”

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Stoddard added that COVID-19 cases and behavioral health patients are presenting challenges to local emergency departments, at the same time as the flu and RSV. Bridgers said a proposed restoration center in Rockville should help alleviate some of those concerns, if it is approved and built in future years. 

Officials urge residents to take precautions, get vaccinated against COVID-19 and flu

Health officials said residents should remain vigilant in order to prevent the spread of any illness, and getting ill themselves. That includes washing hands, sneezing or coughing into a sleeve or elbow, potentially wearing masks in crowded indoor spaces, and getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and the flu.

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County Executive Marc Elrich told reporters Wednesday he wasn’t currently considering any reinstatement of a mask mandate. He urged people to get vaccinated with the latest COVID booster or annual flu shot.

The county will be holding its fourth Boosterama at the Westfield Wheaton Mall. Free flu and COVID-19 booster shots will be provided from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 17.

Mary Anderson, a spokesperson for the county’s Department of Health and Human Services provided the following totals for vaccines administered during the three prior Boosterama events.

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  • Oct.  29: 108 (91 adult, 17 children) vaccines
  • Feb. 19: 119 vaccines
  • Dec. 18, 2021: 460 vaccines

Anderson said that the event later this month will feature both flu and COVID-19 vaccines, as the county is seeing a “convergence” of COVID-19, flu, and RSV cases.