Kent Health Officer William Webb told the Kent County Commissioners Tuesday that a new surge in COVID-19 cases may require the enactment of local restrictions to protect public health in the absence of “outside leadership.”

He said it was unlikely that state and federal leaders would reinstitute restrictions to combat a recent surge in infections.

Webb said the 18-34 age group is the culprit in the recent rise in Maryland’s infection rate, mostly due to them frequenting bars and restaurants that have been less than “rigorous” with safety precautions. He said the state’s infection rate began to climb after the July 4 holiday. 

“Maryland conditions as it relates to COVID-19 have been deteriorating in the last three weeks,” he said. He said the infection count climbed north to 925 cases on July 19, a single day total not recorded since the end of May.

While Kent has fared better than the state and the mid-shore, Webb said Kent’s positivity rate has doubled since he last briefed the council at the end of June. He said the rate of community spread cases is now five times higher than the county’s nursing homes, the predominant source of COVID-19 infections at the beginning of the pandemic.

Kent’s testing positivity rate is 5 percent, up from 2.26 percent on June 30. The state’s infection rate is 4.49 percent.

Of the 25 new cases since Webb’s June 30 report to the Commissioners, 16 were recorded in the last week and 21 of the cases were community spread. Only two cases were reported in nursing homes here. 

Webb told the commissioners he is more alarmed now than he was in April — and he’s anticipating the surge to continue in the next few weeks.

He said the nationwide infection rate was far worse than Maryland — with record infection rates posting daily in other states. Florida, Texas, Arizona and California “are leading with counts that are staggering.” 

Webb said the recent surge has erased all the gains made from the spring shutdown and come as a result of relaxing restrictions in May.

He advised that Kent County Schools do away with the classroom setting this fall and go to an all online learning platform.

He also expressed concern about 850 new students arriving at Washington College in August and 200 more moving into off-campus residences in town. He said the college was finalizing safety procedures that will be published before the start of the fall semester.

He said the community should be mindful of the college students and continue to be “vigilant” with facemasks and social distancing. Webb said the college students will be “the most mobile and infective demographic” in the community.

Feature Photo by Sun Brockie on Flickr