DENTON — Teamwork is the key to Caroline County’s ongoing effort to address the COVID-19 pandemic as cases continue to surge after the holidays, Health Officer Laura Patrick, R.N., told commissioners Tuesday morning, Jan. 12. She praised the many partners working with the health department — EMS, 911, the school system, parks and recreation, public works, library staff and more.
The health department and its partner Choptank Community Health currently offer six opportunities for testing throughout the week, and the overall positive rate at those clinics has been about 15%, Patrick said. Monday’s seven-day positivity rate for the county was 9.7%; when the numbers posted Tuesday, it was up to 10.35%.
From contact tracing through COVID Link and through the health department, they’ve found social gatherings and travel are the top ways COVID-19 is being spread, Patrick said, adding, “Please travel only if it’s essential.”
With large turnouts for the clinics (averaging around 100) and the high numbers of positives, Patrick said she believes it’s important to continue offering testing.
“Meeting the needs of the community is our priority,” she said.
At the same time, the health department also is offering vaccine clinics — once a week on Wednesday at this point.
Patrick said she has permission to continue moving through the phases as long as the clinics remain available to people from earlier phases who either weren’t available or elected not to take the vaccine and have changed their minds.
This week, the health department was not given the amount of vaccine Patrick requested, she said, but she heard most jurisdictions had been level allocated, receiving the same number of doses as the previous week.
The vaccine clinic this week will target dentists, homeless shelter staff and day care centers, she said, and she plans to ask for more vaccines for next week.
In an effort to streamline the process, Patrick said she had bought out the kitchen timers in Denton to be used in the observation area after a vaccine is given. Like with allergy shots, those vaccinated are asked to wait at least 15 minutes in case of any adverse reaction. When the timer goes off, the person knows their 15 minutes is up and they can go.
“There’s going to be a whole lot of dinging going on,” Patrick said. The timers will be cleaned with disinfectant wipes between each patient.
All nursing homes in the county have been vaccinated, Patrick said. On Thursday and Friday, the health department will be going onsite for assisted living facilities and group homes, including the Benedictine School, Homestead Manor and the Caroline Center.
Walgreens and CVS said it would be two weeks before they could get there, so the health department will do the vaccinations and the pharmacies will replace the vaccine from their stock when they get it, she explained.
Once the assisted living facilities are done, Patrick said she hopes to have vaccines available for people 75 and older. Caroline continues to rank first in the state for administration of vaccines allocated.
The second dose of vaccine for the first 100 local people vaccinated has arrived and will be administered the following Friday, Patrick said. “We’re prepared to do seven days a week if necessary.”
The call center is “up and rolling,” with library and adult day care staff taking about 300 calls an hour, she said.
Emergency Services Director Anna Sierra praised the “heroic efforts” of the health department and its partners.
She said the emergency operations center status has been upgraded to allow for more people to help with education, messaging and planning.
Area hospitals continue to register elevated red and yellow alert statuses, but the county’s response and turnaround times are still OK, she said.
As of Tuesday, Caroline County listed 1,556 total positive coronavirus cases with 1,177 people recovered. Twelve county residents have died from COVID-19.