Gov. Larry Hogan on Sunday announced new mandates for Maryland’s nursing homes in order to dull the spread of COVID-19, which has invaded dozens of facilities in the state.
Under the threat of criminal penalties, Hogan's order and directive from his health secretary demand that nursing home employees in close contact with residents wear facemasks, gloves, gowns and other personal protective gear when providing care. Nursing homes must have expedited testing for the new coronavirus and designated areas where residents with known or suspected COVID-19 are treated, according to the new rules.
Violating the rules are a misdemeanor punishable by fines and prison.
Hogan said more than 80 nursing homes and long-term care facilities have positive cases or clusters of cases. The most intense cluster is at the Pleasant View Nursing Home in Mount Airy, where five more residents diagnosed with COVID-19 have now died, bringing the total to 10, health officials announced this weekend. More than 100 residents or staff have tested positive there.
“Our highest priority is keeping Marylanders safe, and we will use every tool at our disposal to protect the most vulnerable among us,” Hogan said in a news release. The Maryland health department issued guidance nearly four weeks ago to restrict resident visitations and control infections.
Several other states are trying to get a handle on expanding outbreaks at nursing homes and long-term care facilities. About a quarter of New Jersey's 375 nursing homes had positive cases as of last week. In Texas, more than 140 positive cases in Texas were reported at nursing homes in Texas City and San Antonio. Federal authorities have proposed a $611,000 fine for a Seattle-area nursing home connected to at least 40 coronavirus deaths.
Earlier Sunday, Maryland health officials reported more than 65 deaths overall related to COVID-19, or a 25% increase compared to Saturday. There were over 3,600 positive COVID-19 cases in the state, a 15% increase since Saturday.
Seventy-seven of Pleasant View’s 95 residents and 27 staff members have tested positive, according to the Carroll County department’s own tally. Eighteen staff members had tested positive as of late last week.
One Carroll County resident who also died had lived at the Carroll Lutheran Village retirement community in Westminster, the county health department said. There are more than a dozen positive cases among Carroll Lutheran residents and staff.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, and the vast majority survive. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can be more severe, causing even pneumonia or death.
The Baltimore Police Department had to close its Southwest Police District station and send the more than 130 officers and staff assigned to the station home after a station officer tested positive. The self-quarantine is being performed as a precaution, police Commissioner Michael Harrison announced late Saturday.
The district and all vehicles assigned to the district are being sanitized, while units from other districts will be asked to help maintain coverage in the district’s geographic region.
So far, six Baltimore officers and two civilian workers across the department have tested positive, according to police.
“Safeguarding the health of the public and our hard working officers will remain our top priority,” Mayor Jack Young said in a joint news release with Harrison. “I am thankful to the men and women of the department, who continue to protect and serve during an extremely difficult time.”
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