Universities, Local Governments Diverge In COVID-19 Response As Key Metrics Rise

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The United States is nearing one million lives lost to COVID-19. The grim milestone closely follows the climb of new infections across the country.

In a statement, President Joe Biden reflected on the moment and said in part:

“As a nation, we must not grow numb to such sorrow. To heal, we must remember. We must remain vigilant against this pandemic and do everything we can to save as many lives as possible, as we have with more testing, vaccines, and treatments than ever before.”

Meanwhile, the state of Maryland recorded 2,210 COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, according to data from the Maryland Department of Health. This is the most since 2,172 cases were added on February 3.

The new infections brought the positivity rate up slightly to 6.46 percent.

Currently, 310 people are in hospitals to be treated for the virus across the state. The last time Maryland saw this many inpatients was in March.

Over the last several weeks, Dr. Mark Goldstein, the Chief of Emergency Medicine at Carroll Hospital, said the number of COVID-19 patients has tripled at his hospital.

“It is becoming more of a public health threat even though by and large this variant of COVID is milder and particularly for vaccinated people that they are not getting seriously ill as often,” said Dr. Goldstein.

As key COVID-19 metrics tick up, some protocols are changing with it.

On Tuesday, the Community College of Baltimore County reinstated its mask requirement. This means whenever there’s 10 or more people in a classroom, meeting or event, face coverings will be required. This will last through May 30.

“They know what’s best for me and I guess they’re just looking out for us,” said student John Bryant-Dolan.

Despite the community college making the call to mask up once again, Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski said the local government does not have any plans to reverse policies.

“We’re focused on keeping our community safe but also ensuring that we’re getting back on track in the wake of what’s been two very hard and difficult years,” said Olszewski.

Other colleges across the region are also taking precautionary steps.

Johns Hopkins recently made an announcement that masks will remain required in classrooms, lab and studio-based classes where instruction and exams take place through May 22. Masking is optional though for those who are vaccinated and boosted in university administrative spaces, research labs, public spaces and events, athletic facilities and non-classroom communal spaces such as residence halls.

“We have seen a significant increase in COVID cases among undergraduates recently, with a large proportion traced to a concern that took place on Saturday, April 30. The event was in full compliance with our current COVID rules, but it is a reminder that even in a population with universal vaccination such as ours, the virus can still spread.”

Undergraduates at Johns Hopkins will now be required to test twice a week.

Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa on Tuesday said she strongly encourages residents and visitors wear masks indoors and at public gatherings, but the city is not yet reinstituting a mandate.

On Tuesday, the University of Maryland also put out an update on their latest COVID-19 protocols for Spring 2022. The indoor mask mandate was lifted on campus for all faculty, staff, students and visitors with a few exceptions.

Those exceptions include wearing KN95 masks in all classroom settings and on shared public transportation, for example.