COLUMBIA, MD. (WJZ) — With the warmer weather and more activities shifting outdoors, local leaders are urging caution.

“The increase in the positivity and the case rates concerning not just in Howard County but the state of Maryland and nationwide,” said Dr. Maura Rossman, Howard County health officer

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While the focus has shifted to vaccination, the virus is still very much with us,” said Calvin Ball, Howard County executive.

As of Monday, Maryland’s positivity rate climbed to just under 5-percent, up from 3.96-percent two weeks ago. Hospitalizations are also steadily trending up for the past 11 days.

“I think we can attribute that to a couple of things, certainly the variants,” said Dr. Rossman. “We can also I think we’ve all become a little bit relaxed, feeling really hopeful and maybe a little too hopeful.”

Howard County leaders noting testing rates have dropped significantly since December 2020.

Monday, the county launched its new community-based mobile testing at five rotating locations throughout Howard County. The mobile testing will be operated by First Call Urgent Care, Monday-Friday from 3:00-7:00 p.m. The mobile testing sites were chosen to remove barriers to access for communities as school buildings reopen.

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The mobile testing bus will rotate between the following five locations:

  • Monday – Long Reach Village Center, 8775 Cloudleap Ct, Columbia, MD 21045
  • Tuesday – North Laurel Community Center, 9411 Whiskey Bottom Rd, Laurel, MD 20723
  • Wednesday – Normandy Shopping Center, 8480 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City, MD 21043 [beginning April 7th]
  • Thursday – Recreation and Parks Headquarters, 7120 Oakland Mills Rd, Columbia, MD 21046
  • Friday – The Elkridge 50+ Center, 6540 Washington Blvd, Elkridge, MD 21075

“Testing is vital to stopping the spread of this virus and to keep people safe. Rapid and easy access to testing is critical to getting us back to normal,” said Ball.

While the governor’s office announced every county will be receiving more doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine this week, in order to reach herd immunity, health experts are predicting 70 to 90-percent of the population needs to be vaccinated.

Right now, only about 15-percent of Marylanders are fully vaccinated.

“Most of us are still not yet protected,” said Ball “We need to continue to wear our masks, practice physical distancing, avoid large gatherings”

By the end of April, the governor says all Maryland residents over 16 will be eligible to get a vaccine.

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For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department’s website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ’s coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.

CBS Baltimore Staff