Local health officials are seeing a spike in Covid-19 cases as the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus spreads mostly among unvaccinated people.
In the last two weeks, cases in Wicomico County have tripled, according to the Health Department.
“It gives us a bad feeling,” said Sarah Arnett, Chief Nursing Officer at TidalHealth Peninsula Regional.
In early June, the number of people hospitalized with the virus ranged from zero to five, but as of Monday, there were 15 Covid patients there ranging in age from 17 to 79, Arnett said. None of them were in the intensive care unit.
All or most of them were unvaccinated, she said.
The latest increase in cases is not as bad as two spikes in 2020, including the first one that put 100 people in the hospital, Arnett said.
Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week that the Delta variant of the virus is as contagious as chicken pox. Across the U.S., 83 percent of new cases are estimated to be the Delta variant.
The news has resulted in an uptick in the number of people seeking vaccinations across the country. Arnett said that locally there has been a small increase at local vaccination clinics offered by both the hospital and the Health Department.
Getting vaccinated prevents severe illness, hospitalization, and death. It also helps reduce the spread of the virus in communities. Unvaccinated individuals should get vaccinated and continue masking until they are fully vaccinated. With the Delta variant, this is more urgent than ever, according to the Health Department.
Some local businesses are again requiring employees to wear masks, while others, including Salisbury University, are requiring all students, faculty and staff be vaccinated before returning to campus.
Elsewhere in the country, some hospitals also are making Covid-19 vaccinations a condition for employment. So far, TidalHealth is not one of them, said hospital spokesman Roger Follebout.
“At TidalHealth, we have been discussing Covid-19 vaccinations as a condition of employment; however, we are not making them mandatory at this time,” he said. “While we still strongly encourage everyone to get vaccinated, we are looking at several different factors, including full FDA approval for the vaccine beyond the current emergency use authorization. We understand that full FDA approval will be an important milestone that will further demonstrate the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness.”
However, TidalHealth still requires face coverings at any location where its team provides care or testing, Follebout said.
The highest spread of cases and severe outcomes is happening in places with low vaccination rates, according to the Health Department. Wicomico County has 42 percent of residents 18 years old and older fully vaccinated. Statewide, 59.31 percent of the population is vaccinated.
The Health Department is encouraging residents to get vaccinated including, 12- to 17-year-olds especially before school is back in session. The Pfizer vaccine has been approved for that age group.
The Wicomico County Health Department will be holding vaccine clinics at the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center as well as in the community.
The following vaccination clinics have been scheduled:
Visit marylandvax.org to make an appointment or call 410-341-4600.
Gov. Hogan’s report
In a message over the weekend, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan once again implored the unvaccinated to take action.
“If you have been vaccinated against Covid-19, that’s the most important thing you can do to protect yourself and your family,” Hogan said. “Those who are unvaccinated remain at serious risk, especially with highly transmissible variants — including the Delta variant, which is said to be 225 percent more transmissible and 1,000 times stronger than the original virus.”
After more than seven months and more than 7 million vaccinations, Maryland is one of the most vaccinated states in the country. The state has the fourth-lowest case rate and positivity rate in the nation.
Hogan reported that nearly every Marylander who has been hospitalized or died from Covid-19 since June 1 was unvaccinated.
“If you are still unsure about getting the vaccine or have questions, please talk to your doctor, or talk to friends or loved ones who have already gotten their shot,” Hogan said. “The potential short-term side effects of getting the vaccine are nothing compared to the long-term effects of getting infected with Covid-19.”
The latest numbers
As of Monday, Wicomico County has had 7,899 confirmed cases of Covid-19 with 175 deaths. Health officials also reported that 44,057 county residents have received the first dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, 40,157 have gotten a second dose and 3,831 got a Johnson & Johnson single dose vaccine.
The patient count in Somerset is now 2,644 with 42 deaths. First doses of vaccine have gone to 9,821 residents, 8,643 have gotten second doses and 945 got single doses.
Additional cases have also been confirmed in Worcester County, which now reports 3,769 people as having the virus and 105 deaths. So far 29,226 people have gotten their first shots, 26,882 had a second dose and 2,410 got a single dose.
Dorchester County counts 2,916 cases, 64 deaths, 13,924 first doses of vaccine, 12,578 second shots and 2,124 single doses. There are 2,384 reported cases in Caroline County with 30 deaths, 13,012 first vaccinations, 11,873 second doses and 2,937 single doses.
Statewide in Maryland, 469,542 cases have been confirmed, with 9,609 confirmed deaths and 220 probable deaths. The current hospitalization totals of people with the virus stands at 281. The number of people in intensive care is 79.
Across Maryland, more than 3.7 million people have tested negative for the virus.
As of Monday, the state has administered more than 7.1 million doses of vaccine, with more than 3.5 million people now fully vaccinated and 77.6 percent of the population with at least one dose.
Nationally, there are now more than 35 million cases with 613,488 deaths. Roughly 164.9 million people in the U.S. -- 50.24 percent of the population -- are fully vaccinated.