Calvert County Health Department via Facebook

Over the past 10 days, we began to see a surge in COVID cases among teens and young adults. This is at least partly due to gatherings at pool parties, bars, and other social events.

Since mid-July, 54.4% of the 200+ COVID cases diagnosed in Calvert have been among those ages 15-29. Those between 15-19 years old have accounted for an astounding 30% of the diagnosed cases in the county.

At the same time, we have seen that older adults with higher medical risks are doing a better job keeping themselves out of harm’s way. People 55 and older have accounted for 11.7% of our positive tests during the past 3+ weeks. But despite efforts of those with greater health risks to avoid higher-risk situations, it is inevitable that teens and young adults will transmit the virus to household contacts, some of whom will develop life-threatening medical complications. Over the past week, we’ve seen COVID admissions at CalvertHealth Medical Center jump from 1-2 patients on a typical day in June, and most of July to 8 patients currently needing inpatient care.

Conspiracy theories and misinformation continue to spread on social media and other outlets. COVID is no hoax. We’ve had 12 deaths in our county and many more people have been hospitalized since March. There will be people who survive their illness but will be left with permanent lung damage or long-term renal impairment and cognitive loss due to blood clots to their kidneys and brains (strokes). Professional sports leagues from NASCAR to the NBA to Major League Baseball have not forfeited billions of dollars due to a hoax. They understand the very real risks for athletes, staff, and their families.

As a nation, we have failed to act in a coordinated and decisive manner. The reality is that until we have an effective vaccine, cases of COVID will continue. Our goal at this point should be to minimize the transmission of the virus in our county and prevent outbreaks. We need to act in ways that respect everyone’s health and safety. Avoid close, in-person contact with anyone outside of your household. Wear a face mask over your mouth and nose when out in public or at work. If you need to travel, avoid eating inside restaurants and going to any area where you can’t adequately space apart from others. A crowded venue in Ocean City can be just as risky as a crowded location in Florida or Arizona.

Teens need to think about the consequences of attending parties, especially where alcohol is being served. Alcohol increases the risk of virus transmission as a result of decreasing both inhibitions and good judgment. The health department just learned of a party attended by close to 100 teens in the Drum Point area that has resulted in multiple new cases of COVID infections. Parents also need to be aware that under Maryland law, if alcohol is consumed at a party on their property by people under 21, the homeowners are subject to criminal prosecution.

We all have a stake in this. Schools have been closed across the state depriving students of pre-K to high school seniors of better education, in-person friendships and social support, and extra-curricular activities, including sports. Most businesses have been adversely impacted, costing owners dearly and depriving employees of a steady paycheck. It will be at least April before we know which vaccines are effective and until enough people are vaccinated to sufficiently reduce the risks of COVID.

Between now and then, we can’t escape reality. This virus is indifferent to what we want to believe or how we would like to live our lives. Our collective actions will result in either spike of serious illnesses and further business and scholastic disruptions or a more moderate course that prevents our hospital from being overwhelmed and avoids the likelihood of further shutdowns. It sucks, but we can’t reset the calendar to January.

Avoid unnecessary travel. Don’t attend parties and large gatherings. Wear your face masks whenever you’re around people outside of your household. If you are older or have chronic health problems and you share a home with someone between 15-27 years old, talk to them about their potential exposures to COVID and act accordingly. Finally, support local businesses- they can use all the help they can get until we have an effective vaccine. Take care and stay safe.