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Booster shots recommended as COVID cases continue to rise in Montgomery County

The overall case rates are still low compared to past surges, but officials are watching the data closely

WHEATON-GLENMONT, Md. — Montgomery County officials say they're tracking an increase in COVID cases in their community.

The overall case rate, so far, is still relatively low.

But county officials are urging people to make sure their COVID-19 vaccinations are up to date in an effort to prevent further case spread. 

The case rate currently sits at about 120 new cases per 100,000 residents. That's a stark jump from the beginning of the month, when that figure was roughly 90 cases per 100,000 residents.

Compared to rates seen during some of the peak moments of pandemic era, though, it's still low. In January 2022, for example, during the height of the Omicron surge, Montgomery County recorded more than 2,200 cases per 100,000 residents.

Still, officials are aware of how quickly the virus can spread.

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich is watching the data closely. 

He says if the new case figure approaches 200 cases per 100,000 residents, county leaders might consider reinstating a mask mandate.

According to Elrich, the combined impact of RSV, flu, and COVID on hospital resources exacerbates the potential risks of a spike in coronavirus cases.

"We won't do anything more severe than we need to do," he said. "But if we tell you we need to do something, it's just a tool to make sure this thing doesn't go where none of us want it to go."

Elrich stresses that's just a possibility. Nothing is set in stone.

In an effort to prevent the case rate from getting to that point, he and other county leaders are encouraging residents to make sure their COVID vaccination status is up to date. 

Officials say getting vaccinated and boosted is the best way to make sure another mandate isn’t called for.

"We know that COVID numbers are starting to rise and we know this booster is really effective," said Dr. Kisha Davis, the Montgomery County Health Officer.

The booster, she says, helps reduce the risk of infection and the severity of the virus if you do contract it.

"It's so much more milder than it would have been without that extra protection," she said.

Mirna Manalang  took the message to heart. She got her booster shot Saturday morning at a pop-up clinic put on by the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services at the Westfield Wheaton mall.

"It's not only for me," said Manalang. "[It's for] all the people I encounter."

Health officials hope others follow her lead.

So far, according to a press release earlier this week from the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services, only 21% of county residents have gotten the bivalent booster shot.

For residents age 50 and older, that figure is 37%.

You can find a searchable database of sites offering vaccines here.

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