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CUMBERLAND — Garrett and Allegany counties continued to lead the state in coronavirus positivity rate Tuesday, as health officials in both counties reported a surge of new cases and deaths.

Garrett County’s death toll rose to 28 after eight COVID-19 related deaths since Monday. The age range of the 28 deaths is 59 to 99, health officials said. The county also added 52 new cases, raising its total to 1,292.

“We want to extend our condolences to everyone who is experiencing sickness and the loss of loved ones during this pandemic,” said Garrett County Health Officer Bob Stephens. “The numbers of illnesses and deaths are individual people, and are not just numbers to us. We are asking everyone to follow the recommended safety precautions and to do whatever they can to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on everyone.”

Allegany County reported nine deaths Wednesday, raising the county toll to 127, and 219 new cases, for a cumulative total of 4,848.

A news release issued by by the Allegany County Health Department Wednesday urged residents to avoid social gatherings during the holiday season.

“In order to slow the spread of COVID this holiday season, it is important that everyone remain vigilant and continue to follow public health guidance to safeguard our health and the health of those around us,” health officials said in the release.

Garrett’s 15.3% seven-day positivity rate was tops in the state Tuesday, and more than double the Maryland average of 7.5%. The county’s seven-day case rase rate per 100,000 population was 71.4, compared to the state average 45.8.

Allegany County had the second-highest positivity rate at 13.4% and a case rate of 108.13.

Contact tracing

Garrett health officials said contact tracers are having a hard time keeping up with the large number of cases across the state.

“If you test positive for COVID-19, immediately begin to isolate for at least 10 days from the date of the test. Increase your isolation days until you are fever-free for 24 hours without taking fever reducing medication,” health officials said in a news release. “Then, do your part by notifying your close contacts that they should immediately begin quarantining. A close contact is anyone who was closer to you than 6 feet for a total of 15 minutes within a 24 hours period — with or without a mask.”

The health department offered tips for someone to conduct their own contact tracing:

• Make a list people you were in close contact with

• Your list should begin two days before the day your symptoms began, or two days before the day you tested positive, whichever is longest

• Contact these people and ask them to immediately begin to quarantine for 14 days from the last day they had close contact with you

“If you know for certain you have been exposed, quarantine yourself whether or not you get a call,” said Dr. Jennifer Corder, deputy health officer for Garrett and Allegany counties. “And, if you know you are positive, isolate whether or not you have symptoms. It’s time for everyone to do the responsible thing. Contact tracing, isolation and quarantine are key elements of mitigation, and everyone needs to be knowledgeable, responsible, and take this seriously. The health department will continue to work tirelessly with case investigations and contact tracing.”

Testing canceled

Testing at the the MEDCO building at the McHenry Business Park is canceled for Thursday due to inclement weather. Those experiencing COVID-like symptoms may call 301-334-7697 to schedule a test at the Garrett County Health Department office in Oakland. The next COVID-19 testing event at the McHenry site will be Dec. 22 from 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

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