Cases of COVID-19 have been on the rise in Carroll County for three weeks, a health expert said Friday.

At the beginning of May, officials had seen the lowest number of cases and hospital infections, according to Dr. Laura Larson, a medical director of infection prevention for Tanner Health System.

But over the last three weeks, not only have the cases increased since that time, they have almost doubled.

“We have increased our number of cases in Carroll County by 100 cases in a one month period of time,” said Larson.

According to the Department of Public Health, Carroll County had 657 cases of COVID-19 infection as of Friday. While the agency’s website that monitors trends of the disease did not show any new cases for the period since June 23, DPH notes that, within the 14-day window, confirmed cases might not have been accounted for, so the number for the period could potentially increase.

Cases aren’t the only thing on the rise too. Hospitalizations have also been increasing for the health system. So while an increase in testing could be a contributing factor for the rising number of cases, the recent rise in hospitalizations indicates that the virus is once again infecting people, according to Larson.

“I think the fact that we’re seeing an increase in the number of sick patients that are in the hospital indicates that we do have community spread,” said Larson.

Larson said that the Department of Public Health helps to identify hot spots and clusters through such methods as contact tracing, but DPH has not communicated any clusters, meaning that the community spread is occurring without a hot spot.

The increased hospitalizations have not overwhelmed hospitals, Larson said, and the number of patients has not reached the levels that they were at in March, during the height of the infection.

The hospital does have a permanent negative pressure room and officials do place those with confirmed COVID-19 cases into isolation, as well as those who are suspected to have the virus.

A negative pressure room is designed to use a difference in air pressure to prevent airborne diseases from escaping.

The virus was first discovered in late 2019 and information surrounding it is constantly changing as medical professionals learn more about it.

Larson said one recent consensus is that the virus spreads primarily through respiratory droplets. Additionally, more information from studies on the effectiveness of masks has been reported, and Larson said that even a cloth mask can reduce respiratory droplets.

“A mask is not political and a mask is not a tool of control. It is a scientifically proven method to reduce the risk of transmission,” said Larson.

When looking at all the different ways to reduce transmission of COVID-19, Larson said that mask-wearing could increase the efficacy of 16% to 19%.

Larson wants to encourage members of the community to read scientific articles rather than opinion articles on the effectiveness of masks. She also said that wearing a mask is safe and does not cause harm from breathing in carbon dioxide.

“I would just encourage people that this method of mitigation spread is more effective than not doing it,” said Larson.