Coronavirus cases continue to increase less than 1% in Montgomery County

Montgomery County’s daily COVID-19 increase continues to be less than 1%

Health officer says increases in county are slightly lower than what state reports

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Montgomery County has been adding 50 to 104 COVID-19 cases per day this week, as its daily increase remains less than 1%, state figures show. 

The county has had 16,056 confirmed cases after adding 70 to its total on Thursday morning — an increase of 0.44%, according to state Department of Health data. The number of cases in the county has increased by less than 1% for all but one day since June 13. 

County officials have said they think the daily caseload increase is actually lower than what the state is reporting.

Dr. Travis Gayles, the county’s health officer, said during a media briefing on Wednesday that the county’s new confirmed cases have actually plateaued in the 50 to 70 range.

County health officials look at a number of sources for data, including the Research Electronic Data Capture, or REDCap, system. That system reports cases based upon the day they were collected, so it gives a sense of the actual daily case count, he said.

“One of the challenges with the way that it’s presented by the state is that you can have data dumps, so to speak,” Gayles said. “You can have a lot of reported cases on one day that weren’t necessarily collected at the same time. We look at everything in context.”

The county’s data dashboard that tracks the progress of COVID-19 cases in the county displays data from the state.

“We watch these carefully like a hawk every day and we’re looking at different data sources again, to get an accurate depiction of where we stand to determine if we need to move forward or move back, and what additional steps we need to take to keep the residents of our county safe.”

The dashboard includes 10 benchmarks the the county is using to determine how quickly it can reopen. The dashboard is updated each day at 2 p.m.

As recently as last weekend, eight benchmarks had been met or “shown substantial progress,” but that number has fallen to six this week.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the six benchmarks that had been met or shown substantial progress were:
● COVID-19 related hospitalizations: 90 (three-day average); at least 14 declining days
● COVID-19 related intensive care unit hospitalizations: 30 (three-day average); at least 14 declining days
● ICU bed utilization rate: 52% (three-day average); the county’s goal of 80% or less has been met for at least 14 days
● Percentage of ventilators in use: 25% (three-day average); the county’s goal of 70% or less has been met for 14 at least days
● Test positivity: 4% (three-day average); at least 14 declining days
● Test administered: 2,030 (three-day average); the county is reporting that it has 4.8% testing capacity in the last 30 days; the county’s goal is 5%

The four benchmarks that haven’t been met are:
● Number of new COVID-19 related deaths: 1 (three-day average); 10 declining days
● Acute care bed utilization rate: 69% (three-day average); the county’s goal of 70% or less has been met for 11 of 14 days
● Number of new confirmed cases: 86 (three-day average); 4 declining days out of 14
● Number of COVID-19 related emergency room patients: 4 (three-day average); 10 declining days

Montgomery County also reports its progress in other areas that are not considered benchmarks, but are additional guidelines.

The county reports having met criteria in:
● leveraging health care networks to provide testing to symptomatic and asymptomatic people
● making testing options accessible across the county
● flattening or decreasing test positivity
● continuing partnerships with state officials to provide large-scale contact tracing efforts

The county reports making progress toward:
● establishing testing networks to offer “high throughput testing”
● compiling and using data by race, gender, age and geographic location to inform policy decisions
● the ability to disseminate information that addresses the impact of COVID-19 on different demographics

The county has recorded 725 confirmed deaths. No new deaths were reported on Thursday.

There have been 38 “probable” deaths from the virus in the county. “Probable” deaths have the coronavirus listed as the cause on death certificates but haven’t been confirmed by laboratory tests.

Statewide, there had been 75,664 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Thursday and 3,215 confirmed deaths. There have been more than 872,000 tests administered and the test positivity rate is 4.61%.

Staff writer Briana Adhikusuma contributed to this story 

Dan Schere can be reached at daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com

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