The chairwoman of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners said Wednesday she is so concerned about an upswing in COVID-19 cases in her county she wants residents to reconsider any Halloween plans they might have for the weekend and either decline to host or attend any parties unless it is outdoors.

“For many weeks now we have discussed and public health experts have predicted that we would see a surge in COVID-19 this fall. Today, I want every Montgomery County resident to understand that the COVID-19 surge is here,” said Chairwoman Dr. Valerie Arkoosh (D).

Arkoosh said the county has seen 571 new cases in the county over the last seven days. That’s 237 more cases than the week prior.

Hospitalizations are on the rise as well. Arkoosh said 70 people are currently hospitalized in the county, a 54 percent increase from the same time last week.

Positivity rates — the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 compared to the overall number of tests being performed — is also on the upswing since the middle of the month, according to data presented at the virtual press conference. The positivity rate had been relatively stable, between two and four percent, but has ticked up in recent days.

Most of the increase is attributable to the change in seasons.

“Cooler weather has two impacts: First, the virus can stay airborne longer in colder air, so it has more opportunity to infect someone,” Arkoosh said. “Second, cooler temperatures send people indoors at restaurants and for social gatherings. We also have more people going back to a workplace and more students going back to school.”

But she also pointed to what experts call “COVID fatigue” — people growing tired of the many restrictions they have faced since March and are either choosing to abandon safety measures or are simply occasionally letting their safety awareness slip.

“I want to urge everyone to stay away from any kind of indoor Halloween parties,” Arkoosh said later.

“If you’re planning to host an indoor Halloween party, if you can move that party outdoors, great. That will certainly decrease any risk to that party. But if you can’t move that party outdoors, I want to ask you to reconsider hosting that event.”

Arkoosh said Halloween masks “don’t cut it” when curbing the spread of the virus compared to regular facemasks and said indoor gatherings “are really putting our community at risk.”

The county is offering several free testing clinics by appointment for those who live or work in the county. Because the testing sites are all outdoors to reduce risk, bad weather can force closures so it is important to double check that the site is open on the day of the appointment.