Confirmed COVID-19 cases are being monitored in 60 Maryland nursing homes, as community spread of the novel coronavirus has hit facilities with even the most stringent precautions in place, officials said Friday.
“We now have widespread community transmission. This virus is everywhere and it is a threat to nearly everyone,” Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) said at a State House news conference on Friday.
As of Friday, there were 2,758 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state and at least 42 Marylanders have died from the virus. Five infants in the state have been infected, including a one-month old.
“The reality is, this disease does not discriminate and no one is immune,” Hogan said.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 diagnoses at the Pleasant View Nursing Home in Mount Airy climbed on Friday to 99, including residents and staff. Forty-two patients have been sent to 14 different hospitals, and six residents of the nursing home have died.
The National Guard is providing support at the facility, as well as multiple state agencies.
Maryland Deputy Secretary for Public Health Services Fran Phillips said the state is monitoring “concerning outbreaks in nursing homes” throughout the state. Forty-six nursing homes or assisted living facilities have reported between one and four cases. Twelve facilities have reported between seven and 10 cases.
Phillips said the new diagnoses at nursing homes underscores the threat of the virus’ community spread. New cases are being found at facilities that have instituted robust infection control procedures, including medical screenings for employees and banning visitors.
“What we are seeing here in Maryland going across the country is clear evidence that people can be infectious that they can transmit this virus, even before they develop symptoms,” Phillips said.
The Maryland Department of Health issued a directive requiring workers at nursing homes to wear masks at all times in an attempt to stop transmission of COVID-19 between asymptomatic workers and residents, who can be particularly hard-hit by the disease.
Nursing homes were also directed Friday to use the Maryland State Laboratory for any testing of suspected cases. The state lab is reserving capacity to process tests from nursing homes to expedite infection control responses, Phillips said.
“It’s important that we smother these nursing homes with infection control. Everything that we can do as far as investigation and interrupting that transmission,” Phillip said. “But do not think that that virus is only in those nursing homes.”
Hogan said on Friday that the state will be opening two additional testing sites at state Motor Vehicle Administration sites in White Oak and Columbia. Three sites are already operating in Bel Air, Glen Burnie and Waldorf. Tests at the sites are limited to patients with doctor’s orders and an appointment.
Hogan said the state is also making rapid progress expanding hospital spaces and plans are on track to be completed six weeks ahead of schedule.
Initial construction is complete for a field hospital at the Baltimore Convention Center and 100 people have already been hired to staff the hospital.
The state has also sent out advanced medical tents to hospitals and prisons throughout the state of Maryland.
More than 5,400 people have signed up to take part in the Maryland Medical Reserve Corps and registration remains open.
On one positive note, 159 previously hospitalized patients have now recovered, officials said Friday.