ELKTON — July 1, the Cecil County Health Department is hosting free drive-through COVID-19 testing at Bohemia Manor High School from 8 a.m. to noon.
The event, in partnership with the Department of Emergency Services, is one piece in the county’s initiative to expand access to testing.
“Expanded access to testing is critical to safely reopening the county. Testing helps us to identify where cases exist in the community so that we can quickly treat and isolate sick individuals, identify individuals whom the sick came into contact with through contact tracing, and quarantine them to prevent wider spread of COVID-19 in the community,” stated Lauren Levy, health officer for Cecil County, in a press release.
Though the reopening of businesses has residents eager to “get back to normal,” the world is still in the midst of a pandemic. The county has ramped up its testing efforts in order to test more residents in order to curb the spread of the virus.
The United States leads in coronavirus-related deaths and positive cases.
In Cecil County, though, government agencies have diligently spent hundreds of thousands in grant dollars to stay in front of the spread of coronavirus.
A majority of this funding comes from direct orders in legislation pushed through congress in early weeks of COVID-19. From this pot, the health department has focused its spending to disperse masks and other personal protective equipment throughout the county.
At its last legislative session, the county council approved resolutions accepting funds from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This included installments of a near-$17 million grant, which is Cecil County’s share of more than $2 billion awarded to the state from the Coronavirus Relief Fund.
According to a fiscal note attached to a county resolution, CARES funds “cannot be used as a revenue replacement for lower than expected tax or other revenues collected by a governmental entity.”
The (roughly) $17 million in CARES money was given in part to the health department to administer and the second half was dispersed directly to the county. Thus far, the Cecil County Health Department has received about $2 million in grants for direct use at the agency with the remainder dispersed between county government, the Department of Social Services, the volunteer fire stations, and county municipalities.
Funding from the CARES Act costs nothing to the taxpayer as expenses within towns to combat the virus are reimbursed with these funds.
The Department of Community Services — another powerhouse in county response to COVID-19 — has worked consistently over the past few months to secure funding for its programs and those they expected to see increase with the spread of the virus.
It, too, received funding sparked by the pandemic for its various services. At the last legislative session, the council accepted $103,824 toward the Housing Fund for housing vouchers, administrative costs incurred due to the pandemic, new COVID-19 related actives, and other costs. There was also a resolution to provide $6,000 to support the department’s housing counselor — a crucial program that coordinates budget counseling and “loss mitigation services to citizens who need solutions to maintain homeownership,” as stated in the resolution.
The council also authorized the department to apply for an additional $430,000 funds designated for the maintenance and expansion of the home delivered meals program, rental assistance, food distribution efforts and provide hotel vouchers to victims of domestic violence as a result of decreased shelter capacity due to COVID-19. (Shelters must follow distancing and health guidelines related to reducing the spread of coronavirus, which has ultimately led to reduced intake.)
The department’s home delivered meals is one program that has altered drastically due to the coronavirus. It went from serving 140 seniors to 450 within the past few months.
The Department of Community Services — alongside other agencies — has been on the ground floor since the rollout of Cecil County’s response to the coronavirus. The team has worked tirelessly to capture the funds needed to serve Cecil County through the virus — and through its anticipated second wave.
“I’s not going to be a light switch,” said Director Dave Trolio regarding any return to “normalcy.”
He also is anticipating state and federal funding to change with projections of decreased revenue across the board. For this reason, the department has been aggressive in trying to capture funds in may need down the line — even past 2021. Trolio and his staff are looking for any collaborations or creative solutions to fulfilling the needs of the county.