Frederick County is one of 12 jurisdictions in Maryland considered a hot zone for COVID-19.
Being declared a hot zone means the counties need more federal attention, Gov. Larry Hogan said during his press conference Tuesday.
Cases of COVID-19 have rapidly increased in the Baltimore-Washington corridor, Hogan said. There are nearly 9,000 cases in the D.C., Maryland and Virginia region, with a total of 189 deaths.
About 47 percent of the 103 deaths in Maryland are in either Prince George’s or Montgomery counties. Prince George’s County has 26 deaths, Montgomery has 21, according to the latest numbers from the Maryland Department of Health.
There were 4,371 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, as of 10 a.m. Tuesday. It was an increase of 326 in 24 hours, a smaller increase than the previous five days.
Case data provided by the state does not currently include a racial breakdown. However, Hogan said Tuesday that he authorized the state health department’s Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities to take necessary action to be able to provide information on race in regards to hospitalization, cases and mortality rate.
Available information will be published on the Maryland Department of Health’s website. Approximately 90 percent of tests are done by health care professionals who send samples to private labs that are not keeping such data, Hogan said.
Frederick County now has 151 confirmed cases and four deaths. Another 38 potential cases are being investigated by the Frederick County Health Department, according to a press release from the Joint Information Center Frederick County. Cases increased by four in 24 hours.
While cases have increased slowly over the past two days, Rissah Watkins, director of planning, assessment and communications, with the Frederick County Health Department, said that numbers in the county are anticipated to increase for “a while longer.”
With more cases in Frederick County, the health department needed additional staff to help with the response. The lag in numbers is due to training the new staff, Watkins said in an email.
Cases have been reported at four nursing homes in the county, with both residents and staff testing positive. Three of the deaths in the county have been linked to cases in nursing homes. Cases have been reported at Frederick Health and Rehabilitation Center, HeartFields Assisted Living at Frederick, Ballenger Creek Center and, most recently, Country Meadows Retirement Communities.
The health department is investigating other potential cases, Frederick County Health Officer Dr. Barbara Brookmyer said in an email.
Carroll County continues to see an increase in deaths, with 16 reported as of Tuesday morning. Nearly all of Carroll County’s deaths are linked to an outbreak at the Pleasant View Nursing Home near Mount Airy.
In addition to measures previously announced by the Hogan administration, Hogan said the state is creating strike teams that can bring triage, emergency care, supplies and equipment to nursing homes.
There will be three types of strike teams: testing teams, assistance teams and clinical teams.
Testing teams will identify those who have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, as well as collect and send out samples for rapid testing. They will also provide guidance on keeping confirmed and suspected cases among staff isolated.
Assistance teams will be staffed by the Maryland National Guard, which will triage patients and determine equipment and supply needs.
Clinical teams, staffed by health care professionals from hospital systems, will provide triage on site and will help stabilize patients at the nursing home to prevent the need to transport them to the hospital.
“The goal here is not to replace a nursing home’s medical and clinical team, but to provide immediate support and assistance to help protect residents of these facilities,” Hogan said. “The state teams will provide assistance and care to patients immediately, in order to slow the spread of this virus among our most vulnerable Marylanders.”
Nursing homes, the local health department and infectious disease experts within the Maryland Department of Health can request these teams, Hogan said.
Additionally, local health departments can now order businesses, establishments and construction sites to modify their operations or shut down if deemed unsafe or a potential risk for spreading the virus, the governor said.
Social distancing and spreadMembers of the state’s coronavirus response team flanked Hogan as he announced former FDA commissioner Scott Gotlieb joined the team.
Social distancing measures are in place to continue to slow the spread of COVID-19. And it may be working as the number of new cases was much smaller than it had been since April 1, said Dr. Tom Inglesby, director of the Center for Health Security of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
It is only one day of data, Inglesby said, but if it continues, it could be a good sign.
Without social distancing measures, one person could likely infect another two to three people. Those people would then each infect two or three people, Inglesby said.
“Without a vaccine or a therapy to stop this disease, the only way to slow this virus down is through the social distancing measures that the governor has put in place in Maryland,” Inglesby said.
Inglesby said he hopes the peak time will come soon, possibly as early as within 10 days, according to a model from the White House. Another model has it coming a bit later.
“But models are only best estimates, and models don’t necessarily take into account how seriously Maryland has put social distancing measures in place, so we do hope our peak date will be sooner,” he said.
Once the peak hits and cases start to decrease, Maryland will still need to practice social distancing, Hogan said. The state will make decisions based on facts and start inching into normalcy.
Hogan said he cannot flip a switch and have life become normal again, even if cases are low.
“Look, we’re anxious to get everybody back to their normal lives as quickly as we can, but the last thing we want to do is bring them back too fast where we just ramp this thing back up and have the virus spread,” Hogan said.
There is still a period of time where Maryland will continue to deal with COVID-19, the governor said. That is the nature of flattening the curve.
Pushing the curve down means a longer period of time for dealing with it.
“So while we’re not going to have this overload of the state system, it also means it’s going to be a while for us to get back [to normal] ... it’s going to be a longer period of time, but not be as bad,” Hogan said.