Kent Health Officer William Webb updates Commissioners on COVID-19 surge, Dec. 7, 2020

The latest COVID-19 surge has hit Kent County hard, said Kent Health Officer William Webb on Tuesday.

“The surge is here and it is moving rapidly in Kent County,” Webb told the Commissioners at their Dec. 8 meeting. He said the rate of hospitalizations in Maryland will likely be the metric that guides Gov. Larry Hogan’s decisions about more restrictions and executive orders.

Today the state hit a new record of 1,715 COVID-19 hospitalizations.

Webb said the upswing in hospitalizations statewide that began on Oct. 4 has set the state back to where it was in March at the onset of the pandemic, and the restrictions are “a lot less stringent” than they were in April and May.

Locally there are vacancies in hospital beds at University of Maryland Shore Regional Health in Chestertown to handle the current caseload and the hospital does have a surge plan in place, Webb said. 

There have been 131 new cases in Kent since the Commissioners were last briefed on Nov. 17.  Of those 113 are community spread. He said new cases in the last two weeks have accounted for 25 percent of all the cases in Kent since the pandemic began. 

Another key metric is the number of cases per 100,000 of population — and shows Kent’s cases quadrupling from 10 on Nov. 17 to an all time high of 50 on Dec. 8.

Webb warned that the surge could continue through February and overwhelm the medical system when the annual influenza spike hits around the same time. He said flu shots were highly recommended.

One bright spot is that there have been no new COVID-19 related deaths since mid-October.

In an interview Thursday, Webb said the death rate has declined because of the learning curve that has occurred since March. 

“Our healthcare workers are much better at treating those that are severely ill,” he said. “They have better protocols and more experience at this point.”

He said the population most affected now are generally younger and a little bit healthier than those who were infected in facilities early on.

“The first wave was really in the assisted living and nursing facilities where the elderly are more fragile in dealing with the disease,” he said.