A “significant surge” in Covid-19 cases continues in Wicomico County even as it begins to wane in other parts of the state, Lori Brewster, Health Officer for Wicomico County, told County Council members on Tuesday.
Since the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, there were 3,215 new cases added during a 16-day period, with one out of three people testing positive for the virus, she said.
The Health Department has increased testing by adding more hours and an additional day at the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center, where it also continues to hold Covid vaccination clinics.
Wicomico County now has 61 percent of its population over age 12 vaccinated, making it the fourth-lowest vaccination rate in the state.
“That’s not a place I want to be,” Brewster said.
Brewster, along with TidalHealth President and CEO Steve Leonard, told council members that staffing shortages – due to resignations and illness – continue to plague the hospital and the health department. The current surge would be more manageable if staffing was not as big an issue, Leonard said.
TidalHealth has “quite a few openings” and is using traveling nurses between its two hospitals in Salisbury and Seaford, he said.
Brewster said the Health Department will get some relief when the state opens a new Covid-19 testing site in Salisbury. Her staff recently tested 250 people over a two-hour period at a health department clinic, and many are suffering from burnout.
The new state testing site, operated by the Maryland National Guard, will be in a tent at a parking lot at TidalHealth Peninsula Regional. It is expected to open as soon as Friday, Brewster said. It is one of 16 testing sites opened by Gov. Larry Hogan over the past couple of weeks.
Home test kits and masks
As of Tuesday, the health department will receive and distribute KN95 and N95 masks to the public. Based on supplies received, limits on distribution may apply. These masks will be available at public access points within all health department buildings as well as the Covid-19 testing and vaccination clinics at the civic center and all three branches of the Wicomico Public Library.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends the wearing of KN95 and N95 masks, which offer better protection than cloth masks.
Additionally, since late November, the Wicomico County Health Department and the Wicomico Public Libraries have partnered to distribute free at-home test kits. More than 2,736 kits have been distributed so far and the community need continues to grow.
In order to maximize distribution, test kits will now be limited to one kit per person. All kits contain two tests.
The Health Department will continue to offer free testing clinics at the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center. Appointments are encouraged, but walk-ups are welcome. To make an appointment, call 410-341-4600.
The clinics are held Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Thursdays between 1 and 3 p.m.
For more information, visit wicomichealth.org, or follow the department on Facebook, Instagram (WicomicoHealth), or Twitter (@WicomicoHealth).
As of Tuesday, the case count in Wicomico County now stands at 16,924 compared to 15,503 compared to a week ago and 14,143 the week before that. Deaths in the county now stand at 262, an increase of five since last week.
The patient count in Somerset is now 4,528 with 62 deaths. Additional cases have also been confirmed in Worcester County, which now reports 7,539 people as having had the virus and 138 deaths – six more since last week.
Statewide in Maryland, 909,424 cases have been confirmed, with 12,535 confirmed deaths and 251 probable deaths. The current hospitalization totals of people with the virus stands at 3,060 compared to 3,452 the week before. The number of people in intensive care is 549, including seven pediatric cases.
Across Maryland, more than 6.3 million people have tested negative for the virus.
As of Monday, the state has administered more than 10.7 million doses of vaccine, with more than 4.3 million people now fully vaccinated and 93.3 percent of the adult population with at least one dose.
Nationally, there are now more than 66.4 million cases with 851,732 deaths. Roughly 209 million people in the U.S. – 64 percent of the population -- are fully vaccinated.