St. Mary's County commissioners reconvened as the board of health at their meeting on Tuesday, where they received health updates regarding COVID-19 in the county and availability of testing.
Dr. Meena Brewster, health officer for the county, told commissioners there are now almost 700 confirmed cases in the county and the number of cases continue to rise as access to testing is increased and residents continue to have greater contact with each other. As of Tuesday, 677 confirmed cases and 51 deaths had been recorded in St. Mary’s, according to the health department's website.
Brewster said the county’s positivity rate is currently at 3%. When Commissioner Mike Hewitt (R) asked how the county was doing compared to neighboring counties, she responded Charles County has a rate which is a little higher.
“A lot has been going on with testing locally,” she said. Although a few weeks ago a little over 5% of the population of the county had been tested, Brewster said this week about 8% had been tested.
“Our aim is at least 10%” of the population be tested, Brewster said, adding they “want to see beyond that … but it’s hard to attain.”
Commissioner Eric Colvin (R) asked if physicians were required to provide testing, but Brewster said not all of them, although most urgent care facilities offer testing.
“If residents are concerned, we encourage them to talk to their current doctor,” and if they do not have one, she urged them to use the local COVID-19 hotline at 301-475-4911, Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Brewster said any resident can get tested and recommended they do, especially those showing symptoms. People with exposures to large public groups should also get tested, including front line employees and people who work in retail or grocery stores.
“If a resident travels to another state, especially one with a high rate of COVID-19,” they should self-quarantine for two weeks, as well as get tested.
According to the health department, as of Tuesday, 112 St. Mary's residents were currently hospitalized for COVID-19, and 377 patients have recovered and been released from isolation.
Hewitt mentioned the volume of people traveling to Ocean City during the summer, with Brewster recommending any travelers avoid contact with large crowds, wear cloth face coverings and wash their hands frequently.
Daily appointment-free testing is available for no charge at 46035 Signature Lane is Lexington Park in the U-Haul Plaza Monday through Friday, Brewster said. “It’a great resource for the county,” especially the southern part.
“Are swimming pools safe?” Colvin asked, with Brewster responding “they are open … hopefully people are smart about use” and will avoid a crowded pool.
“It’s still safer for residents to telework, stay home and wear a cloth face mask” to continue to help with disease prevention, she said, adding that being outside is always better when in groups and groups should still not exceed 10 people. If one must go out, she noted outdoor settings are safer than indoor ones.
Brewster said the health department is working with the local public school system to develop plans for returning back to classes in the fall. She said they are looking at several viable options, all of which involve some online learning.