COVID-19 Virus Slams Calvert Manor Nursing Home, National Guard to Help; Elkton, Rising Sun Local Virus Hot Spots, Map Shows

April 12, 2020

A sudden onslaught of COVID-19 cases at Calvert Manor nursing home in Rising Sun, with patients and staff testing positive for the virus, prompted emergency steps Saturday to bring in a special state medical “strike force,” including the National Guard. And new zip code data released Sunday by the state show Elkton and Rising Sun are the prime locations of confirmed infections in Cecil County.

As of Sunday morning, there were 82 confirmed cases of the virus in the county, including one fatality. The numbers of confirmed cases have grown exponentially in recent days, from 17 cases reported by the local health agency on Wednesday 4/1/2020 to the 82 cases reported on Sunday 4/12/2020. As of Saturday afternoon, there were no known cases at other nursing homes in the county but local health officials admitted that they lacked sufficient testing supplies to verify virus status at other facilities.

In Cecil County, the new state reporting of cases by zip codes showed Elkton with 37 cases and Rising Sun with 14 cases. That report totaled just 51 cases, or far less than the 82 confirmed cases reported by health officials so far in the county. The maps showed no cases in other local zip codes but the state is still rolling out its new zip code reporting system and further numbers may be added later.

On Thursday (4/9/2020), the county health department announced “cases” of the virus had been confirmed at a local nursing home but refused to say how many people were affected or to identify the facility or its location. But by Saturday, the numbers had grown so sharply and so quickly that Cecil County Executive Alan McCarthy convened an emergency afternoon press conference, along with county health officer Lauren Levy, to provide more details and outline emergency actions.

At his press conference, McCarthy said that “what started out as two isolated cases” had grown over a two-day period to encompass more widespread infections affecting patients and staff at the facility, which he identified as the Calvert Manor nursing home in Rising Sun.

“I am deeply saddened that this disease has spread to a location which houses some of our most vulnerable citizens,” McCarthy said. “We absolutely must heed the warnings to have any hope to flatten the curve and put an end to this devastating disease.”

(Sources told CECIL TIMES there were a total of 10 cases at Calvert, including patients and staff, as of Saturday morning. In the past, Calvert Manor has consistently received the top rating from the federal Center for Medicare/Medicaid Services for its quality of care under an evaluation system that ranks nursing homes around the nation. The facility has over 120 beds.)

Levy said that “additional test results are pending and more testing is underway for residents and staff” at Calvert to identify other possible cases But based on the rapid rise of infections at the facility, county officials on Saturday called in a special state “strike team” under a new program announced on 4/5/2020 by Gov. Larry Hogan to address the rapid rise of cases at nursing homes, including an outbreak in Carroll County that has claimed 18 lives.

Levy said that members of the state team, who arrived in Cecil County Saturday afternoon, would include “emergency medical physicians, nurse practitioners, and other healthcare personnel who will assist with stabilization and triage at the facility.”

Hogan’s recent executive order requires nursing homes to provide personal protective equipment to all staff and isolate confirmed patient cases in a facility. Levy said health officials were working to obtain additional protective supplies for staff at the nursing home. She also said that as of mid-day Saturday patients were being cared for on-site and had not required transfer to a hospital.

On Sunday, Hogan appeared on the ABC TV network’s “This Week” program to answer questions about the virus and evidence that it is hitting African Americans at higher rates than whites. Several days ago, Maryland began including racial identification data that showed blacks with disproportionate rates of infections and fatalities in the state. Members of the state’s congressional delegation wrote Hogan a letter on Thursday asking for the zip code data to be added after the initial ethnicity data showed African Americans accounted for 44 percent of fatalities while comprising only 30 percent of the state’s overall population

At a press conference with Hogan on Friday, state health officials announced they would soon begin reporting cases by zip codes and the first sets of such data were posted on the state’s website within an hour after Hogan’s TV appearance, in which he said Maryland would indeed reveal the data. Initial reviews of the zip codes indicated Northwest Baltimore and Silver Spring in Montgomery county showed disproportionate fatalities in minority communities in those areas.

Hogan said he was keenly aware of the need to focus attention on minority communities and that he was vastly expanding testing sites in Baltimore City and Prince George’s County to address the needs of minority residents. He also cited his request, subsequently granted, for designation of the Baltimore-Washington corridor in Maryland as a federal “hot spot” that would bring additional federal aid to the region.

But Hogan has not explained why he included Queen Anne’s county on the Eastern Shore as the only non-urban or metropolitan area in that “hot spot” designation. Earlier in the week, he touted that initiative that will “cover Baltimore City and Baltimore County, as well as Anne Arundel, Calvert, Carroll, Charles, Frederick, Harford, Howard, Montgomery, Prince George’s, and Queen Anne’s counties”.

Queen Anne’s County listed a population of about 48,000 people in the 2010 census while Cecil County residents numbered over 101,000 at that time. As of Sunday, Queen Anne’s confirmed cases of COVID-19 were counted at just 19 cases, in contrast with Cecil’s 82 cases.

Hogan has recently expanded virus testing services to include drive-through operations at several Motor Vehicle Administration emission testing facilities on the western shore but did not include testing services at the MVA facility in Cecil County on Route 40.

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