ELKTON — Over a two-day period the Cecil County Health Department and the Department of Emergency Services helped with a project to test more than 300 people working in the agriculture industry.
The drive-through operation was held May 7 and 8 in southern Cecil County. COVID-19 testing was made available to workers and their families in southern Cecil and in Kent county. ChristianaCare Union Hospital and the Kent County Health Department also participated in the program, which additionally provided information on the virus, that has already killed 16 and affected more than 280 people in Cecil County alone.
"Expanded testing is one of the cornerstones of Governor Hogan's Roadmap to Recovery and will be key to preserving health while reopening the county," said Lauren Levy, Cecil County Health Officer. "This testing initiative is a testament to the power of partnership."
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced in late April that large scale testing for the novel coronavirus would be carried out in chicken houses and nursing homes; two industries seeing concentrated outbreaks. Calvert Manor Health Care in Rising Sun reports at least 76 cases, with the death of 12 residents.
While the health department would not identify which farms were tested, Cecil County is home to the largest mushroom growing operation in the western hemisphere: Warwick Mushrooms. That operation employs a staff of 300 working around the clock growing mushrooms for restaurants, food service, and retail in 88 rooms, each 10,000-square-foot in size. There are also large scale broiler houses in the south end.
Dr. Joseph Ciotola, Queen Anne's County Health Officer, said the majority of the increase in cases in that county — jumping from 73 on Friday to 116 cases Monday — are connected to Warwick Mushrooms.
Cecil County saw a similar jump from Friday to Monday, rising from 233 to 283, with an additional two deaths reported bringing that number to 16.
Levy said she was grateful for the partnership in a time such as this that made the wide scale testing possible.
Coulter told the Whig Sunday that no decision has been made on future en masse testing.
"We will continue to assess the public health needs in the county and schedule additional mobile testing sites as needed," Coulter said via email.
Angela Price, editor of the Bay Times and Record Observer, contributed to this story.