Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced new steps Tuesday to expand testing for the coronavirus, including appointment-free testing at new sites for those showing no symptoms and authorizing licensed pharmacists to administer tests.
The governor said drive-thru, appointment-free testing will begin Thursday at the Timonium Fairgrounds in Baltimore County. Testing also will be available starting Friday at the Glen Burnie Vehicle Emissions Inspection Program site in Anne Arundel County and at the Hyattsville VEIP station in Prince George's County.
Another test site will be added in Prince George's next week at the Clinton VEIP site. Prince George's has had 12,340 confirmed cases, the highest in the state.
The testing will be available to people who believe they may have been exposed to the virus, even if they are not yet symptomatic, the governor's office said, and the tests will be provided at no out-of-pocket cost.
Hogan also issued an emergency order authorizing the state's hundreds of licensed pharmacists to directly order and administer COVID-19 tests. The order allows pharmacies to collect specimens for COVID-19 onsite, so long as it is carried out safely by qualified personnel according to guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The order coincides with new federal guidelines that expand options to pay pharmacists to offer COVID-19 tests for Medicare beneficiaries, the governor's office said.
“Beginning this week, we are able to offer appointment-free COVID-19 testing across the state, including for those who do not have symptoms, marking a critical milestone in Maryland’s long-term testing strategy,” Hogan said in a news release. “This will help doctors diagnose and treat new cases more quickly, and it will further increase the safety of our state for all citizens."
As of Tuesday, Maryland has conducted 208,658 COVID-19 tests, covering about 3.5% of the state's population, the governor's office said.
Separately, the federal Department of Health and Human Services announced in a news release it is delivering $205.7 million in new funding to Maryland to support testing.
Meanwhile, Maryland reported its first pediatric death from the coronavirus. A 15-year-old resident died after becoming infected, Baltimore County officials said. Officials say the individual had symptoms of an inflammatory syndrome associated with the COVID-19 infection that has been documented in children in New York and other locations.
Overall, Maryland reported a total of 41,546 cases of the virus on Tuesday. That’s up 1,784 cases from Monday. The state has confirmed 1,963 deaths so far. That’s up 60 from Monday. Maryland has had 167,112 negative tests for the virus. The state also reported that 1,421 people are hospitalized due to the virus, down 26 people from Monday.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in a few weeks. For some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.
Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.