EASTON — The Talbot County Health Department reported another resident died on Monday from COVID-19, increasing the county’s pandemic death toll to 14.
Five Talbot residents have died from coronavirus illness in less than two weeks, marking a significant uptick in local deaths compared to the nine deaths the county saw from March to September.
Acting County Health Officer Dr. Maria Maguire said at least three of the five residents who died since Dec. 30 were nursing home residents. Maguire did not disclose any information about the other two individuals.
“We are seeing some of our deaths occurring in (nursing home and assisted living) facilities, not all, but a high proportion,” Maguire said in response to a question about the most recent resident deaths. “We’re fortunate to not have many deaths per capita in our county, so that is something we’ve been lucky, although we have had since September at least a few more deaths.”
The acting health officer attributed the rise in infections, illness and death locally to community transmission. She said the virus’s spread has “percolated to some high-risk venues, including nursing homes and assisted living facilities.”
Maguire said Talbot County has averaged 31 new cases a day since the end of December. She called the case rate “a different world for us” when compared to the county’s daily average of three to five cases in the fall.
“The reason for this (rise) we think, from what we’re seeing in our data, is the social gatherings since very early November, travel, and perhaps a little bit of maybe complacency with following the protocols,” Maguire said. “We’ve been following them so long, but sometimes it’s that one time you don’t that puts you at risk.”
The rising death and hospitalization rates in the county come in the midst of Gov. Larry Hogan’s announcement Tuesday that a more contagious coronavirus variant, known as B-117, has been identified in two individuals in Anne Arundel County.
The new COVID strain was first identified in the United Kingdom.
Of the new strain’s emergence in Maryland, the county health department said, “While this is news we were hoping to avoid for Maryland, it is important to note that there is no indication at this time indicating that the vaccines being distributed are less effective against this strain.”
Both of the individuals who contracted the new virus strain are younger than 65 years old and live in the same household, Hogan said. One of the two people had recently traveled to the U.K., where they are suspected to have gotten the virus.
“We encourage Marylanders to practice caution to limit the additional risk of transmission associated with this strain,” Hogan said. “It is critically important that we all continue to follow standard public health and safety measures, including mask wearing, regular hand washing, and social distancing.”
As of Tuesday, Talbot is reporting 1,622 coronavirus cases to date. Nineteen residents tested positive for the virus in the 24 hours prior to Tuesday.
Four people were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Monday and 227 residents are actively infected with the virus.