As the state begins to relax restrictions for the general public due to COVID-19, expanded testing in Maryland’s nursing homes has revealed 68 total cases of the disease at the Charlotte Hall Veterans Home, according to state health department data released Wednesday.
Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said online Sunday “hundreds” of tests acquired from South Korea last months had been personally delivered to the veterans home the previous day by Col. Eric Allely, the state’s newly appointed emergency safety and compliance officer for nursing homes.
Hogan had previously ordered for universal testing and daily evaluations at nursing homes after a few, including Sagepoint Senior Living in La Plata, had major outbreaks of COVID-19.
The Charlotte Hall Veterans Home two weeks ago had reported one related death and 18 confirmed cases of COVID-19, consisting of 12 residents and six staff members.
The veterans home and Chesapeake Shores in Lexington Park had been classified as having reached outbreak status by the state, but that just means the homes have at least one case, Dr. Meena Brewster, county health officer, said in an interview last week, prior to the delivery of the tests.
Chesapeake Shores is now reporting two staff cases and one resident case, and no deaths. Of the 68 cases at the veterans home as of Wednesday, 13 are staff and 55 are residents, and two of the residents have died.
On Thursday, the county health department said through a spokesperson that all residents at the home had been tested, but results from those tests are pending.
Higher numbers reported this week may also have to do with the nursing home lowering its threshold for testing a few weeks ago, before universal testing commenced.
All nursing home staff are in the process of being tested over the next few days, the health department recently said.
Brewster said last week the high number of cases at the veterans home has to do with its high number of staff and residents compared to other long-term care homes in the county.
The home estimates approximately 375 residents as well as 400 employees, a spokesperson for the Maryland Veterans Administration said last month.
Brewster said many staff go in and out of the home, and residents sometimes need to leave the facility where they could run into exposures.
Despite its outbreak, Brewster complimented the veterans home.
“They have been tremendous from an infection control perspective,” she said, adding they have done well with planning ahead, being prepared and containing the spread. “I commend them for the job they’ve done already and making the best of this situation we’re in.”
Nobody at the county detention center in Leonardtown had tested positive yet, a sheriff’s office spokesperson said Thursday morning, but the county health department, the sheriff’s office and MedStar St. Mary’s recently began universal testing at the detention center, testing both inmates and corrections officers, according to a joint press release from the groups.
The Southern Maryland Pre-Release Unit, a small detention center in Charlotte Hall, has had one staff member test positive, according to state health department data. That facility’s response program will be handled by the state health department, a county health spokesperson said Thursday.
As of Thursday morning, the St. Mary’s health department reported nine deaths and 290 cases of COVID-19 in the county. Maryland reported nearly 36,000 cases and 1,748 deaths in the state.
Staff writer Kristen Griffith contributed to this report. Twitter: @DanEntNews