The stage one reopening of our region during the COVID-19 pandemic is being experienced with mixed emotions – from excitement to fear. The Allegany County infection rate is the highest in our tri-state region, and our death rate among those infected is one of the highest in the state, surpassed only by Carroll and Kent counties.

Some local politicians seem to be dismissive of the high death rate among the elderly, especially in nursing homes, as though they are expendable, and think we should open more quickly than downstate.

The county is reporting incomplete information about cases — basically, nursing home or non-nursing home. We do not know if recent cases of community transmission are only among family or employees of long-term care facilities? Are there links to the hospital? The prisons? Do infected workers at Pilgrim’s Pride have community connections? Is there other exposure in common?

One of the important overlooked pieces is that people who work at the nursing home — or prison, or chicken factories — are members of the community — they may have jobs elsewhere and go home to their families. They also go to schools, grocery stores, churches — everywhere that is open.

“A problem anywhere, is a problem everywhere.” — World Health Organization.

Also, while our politicians tout our relatively low number of deaths, they do not look at the death rate, based on our population.

Allegany’s rate is 231.7/100,000 residents; our county fatality rate (CFR) was 8.54 and jumped to 9.7 as of May 19. (9.7 = 16 deaths/165 cases)

This is higher than the rate in any of the surrounding counties. Why is that?

Garrett’s rate is 24/100k, with no deaths.

Washington’s is 227/100k and 2.33 CFR.

Preston’s is 44.3/100k and no deaths.

Monongalia’s rate is 108, with a CFR of 4.35.

Hampshire County’s is 51, and 8.33 CFR.

Mineral County’s is 107.6, and no deaths.

Bedford’s rate is 66.4, with CFR of 3.1.

Somerset’s rate is 44.62 with CFR of 3.0

In fact, our fatality rate is even higher than the counties downstate with higher rates of infection (PG, Howard, Frederick, etc.)

One could go on, but you can see that our rate raises questions and is not something to boast about. Our political leaders who are calling for our counties to “open” also fail to recognize that our “preparedness” score is even lower, now only 1/100 for Allegany County.

These leaders ignore the fact that Allegany and Garrett counties have a disproportionately older population than downstate, so would likely be hit with more severe disease.

At the same time, we have a bare-bones health system.

I understand the desire to get back to “normal.” If people choose to do this, despite evidence that it is premature in our locale, at least do it responsibly. That means maintaining social distancing and wearing masks and/or face shields when close to others, particularly indoors.

Universal masking saves lives. People can transmit coronavirus for two days before they have symptoms.

My wearing a mask protects you; your wearing a mask protects me and everyone around you. Each person should wear a mask as an act of being a responsible citizen and caring for others as our faiths ask us to.

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

It is shameful that these simple things are being ignored by a number in the community, in the name of “freedom,” thus endangering the health of others for something that’s so easy and inexpensive to do.

What are our elected officials doing to actually protect the people of Western Maryland?

Dr. Judy Stone


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