2021 | Coronavirus

15 county ZIP codes veer into ‘high transmission’ territory for coronavirus; here’s a breakdown

Cases are scattered across county, slightly increasing downcounty

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Fifteen of Montgomery County’s 38 ZIP codes have reported more than 100 new COVID cases per 100,000 residents for the past seven days, a figure that surpasses the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s threshold for “high transmission.” Ten of them were downcounty, spanning from Rockville and North Bethesda to Silver Spring and Takoma Park.

In aggregate, the county on Friday calculated 93.7 cases per 100,000 residents, which still constitutes “moderate transmission.” 

As the Delta variant surges and case counts rise, an analysis of COVID case data shows that new coronavirus cases are spread out across the county, with a slightly higher concentration in the county’s lower half.

Bethesda Beat reviewed the number of cases per 100,000 residents for Montgomery County’s 38 ZIP codes, using data compiled as of Friday afternoon. 

All but three county ZIP codes reported more than 60 new coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents in the past seven days.

Early in the pandemic, minority communities were greatly impacted by the spread of the coronavirus, due to health care inequities and a lack of resources to prevent transmission.

Now, however, transmission appears to be spread among majority-white ZIP codes and areas where the majority of residents are racial or ethnic minorities. 

Of the 15 ZIP codes surpassing 100 cases per 100,000 residents, five are communities where less than 50% of the population is white, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates from 2019. They are: 

  • Cloverly/Stonegate (123.2 cases per 100,000 residents)
  • Colesville (115.8 cases per 100,000 residents)
  • Wheaton (113.4 cases per 100,000 residents)
  • Clarksburg (112.7 cases per 100,000 residents) and 
  • the western part of Darnestown (104.8 cases per 100,000 residents).

The largest number of cases were reported in ZIP code 20868, known as Spencerville, which sits along the eastern edge of the county. There, 59% of the population is white. 

Spencerville reported 512.8 new cases per 100,000 residents as of Friday, more than four times higher than the next highest ZIP code. The population there was 780 people as of 2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. 

Two ZIP codes reported no new cases at all: Dickerson, a vast area of farmland on the northwestern part of the county, and Sandy Spring, a much smaller area near Olney and Aspen Hill.

Dickerson and Sandy Spring have populations of 1,676 people and 2,855 people respectively, according to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau estimates. 

Dr. Travis Gayles, the county’s health officer, told reporters earlier this week that when positive coronavirus tests from the county are sequenced for different types of variants in state labs and elsewhere, the majority of them are the Delta variant.

But it is difficult, he said, to know exactly how widespread the Delta variant is in the community, because not all tests are being sequenced.

“The sequencing testing is more complicated, and there are more steps in that as opposed to just doing a swab … it’s a lot trickier to scale up and do sequencing for 20,000 samples,” Gayles said. “That would be quite copious from a time perspective.”