Number of COVID-related deaths falls, but new cases see uptick in parts of Tri-State

The number of new deaths attributed to coronavirus dropped by 64% last week in the Tri-State area as compared to the week before.

However, the percentage of new reported cases of the virus that causes COVID-19 increased in many Tri-State counties, an analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows.

As the region prepares for Thanksgiving on Thursday, health officials are concerned the close quarters of the dinner table could lead to a spike in new cases next week — and more deaths in the weeks following.

"Last year through the holiday season, we saw a spike of COVID-19 patients in our community and hospital, and we have just seen a doubling in the number of patients admitted to Meritus Medical Center with COVID-19 during the past month," said Dr. Aaron George, chief medical officer of Meritus Health. "When indoors and in small spaces, especially when there are vulnerable or immunocompromised people and potentially unvaccinated individuals present, masking should continue to be considered to avoid potential spread."

The region continues its stubborn increase in vaccinations. Washington County continues to lead Tri-State area counties with 62.1% of the eligible population fully vaccinated, according to data from the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention. That's only 0.8 percentage points higher than the week prior.

While emergency use of vaccines for children 5 to 11 was approved earlier this month, that age group isn't included in these statistics because many aren't yet fully vaccinated.

George and other health care leaders encouraged vaccinations.

"For those gatherings where everyone is vaccinated, we do believe that your family should be able to enjoy a typical Thanksgiving meal," George said. "… Washington County is still experiencing a high rate of positivity for this very transmissible virus. We want everyone to stay safe and healthy this holiday season."

Meritus, the Washington County Health Department and other health organizations and pharmacies are offering vaccination clinics and walk-in services. Washington County Public Schools is working with Meritus and the health department to offer clinics in schools. For more information, call the health department at 240-313-3456.

Meanwhile, Meritus was to officially cut the ribbon for its mobile clinic bus at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the AC&T at 11564 Hopewell Road in Halfway. The public will be able to get vaccine doses following the ceremony until noon.

When it comes to mobile clinics, a pilot was held in April and the mobile team formed in June. Clinics have been held up to six days a week since then at 89 sites around the county, according to a Meritus news release. The mobile unit was first introduced in August.

And regardless of vaccination or masking, George had one other simple reminder.

"At a time when many other respiratory viruses start to hit our community as well, an effective way to avoid the spread of infection is by washing our hands properly and often," he said.

This article was first published in The Herald-Mail and online at in November 2021.