At least 630 samples have been taken to test for a new coronavirus in Frederick County.
But how close that 630 is to the total number of samples taken from Frederick County residents to be tested for SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19, is unknown.
The Maryland Department of Health and its local counterparts have continued to provide updates on how many new cases there are in the state and its 24 jurisdictions. As of 10:15 a.m. Thursday, there were 13 cases in Frederick County and 580 in the state. But neither the Frederick County Health Department nor Maryland Department of Health could say how many tests have been conducted.
In addition, the Frederick County Health Department could not say how many testing sites are in the county. Testing sites are not required to be registered with the department, said Frederick County Health Officer Barbara Brookmyer in an email.
While the health department has heard about medical offices testing, limited supplies hinder efforts to keep offering testing, Brookmyer said.
At least one physician’s office, one operated by Dr. Julio Menocal, is running tests on patients that meet Centers for Disease Control and Prevention criteria, Menocal previously told The News-Post.
Frederick Health is operating a drive-through testing site on Toll House Avenue across from Frederick Health Hospital, as well as testing patients in the hospital. As of Thursday, they had run about 600 tests, with the majority of them done at the curbside site, said Kelsey Shupe, spokeswoman for the hospital.
No other Frederick Health office or facility is running tests, as far as he knows, said Dr. Manny Casiano, chief medical officer at Frederick Health Hospital, in an email. Centralizing the test site helps reduce confusion, he said.
Frederick Health monitors testing supplies daily, Casiano said. If it had to start rationing supplies for tests, it would follow the state’s prioritization mandate, which gives priorities to those in the hospital, health care professionals, first responders and those sick enough that a diagnosis would change their treatment.
“This number is constantly fluctuating, however we continue to have enough supplies to maintain curbside testing and provide testing to our inpatient and Emergency patients,” Casiano said in an email.
Frederick Health’s supply comes from multiple medical companies, Casiano said. Quest Diagnostics, which runs the tests for the health care system, replaces a test swab for each used one.
While the health care system can collect samples for testing, it cannot yet run the samples at Frederick Health Hospital, despite having the equipment, Casiano said. The hospital has not been able to get the chemicals that it needs to run the tests, although it would like to. Instead, it uses the state and commercial labs.
“Turnaround times for test results are unfortunately very long,” Casiano said in the email. “If we could get the supplies we need, we’d start testing in-house, with [about] 24-hour results, instead of the 5-9 days turnaround we’re currently experiencing.”
The state is actively working to get more supplies, Gov. Larry Hogan said at a press conference Wednesday. The state has requested 138,000 test kits from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Those had not arrived as of Wednesday. It is not known if any of the kits will come to Frederick, Brookmyer said in her email.
It is not as simple as requesting test kits either, Hogan said, since there are multiple components, including the swabs and chemicals. Private laboratories do their own purchasing.
The governor said the state is taking inventory of what the laboratories around the state have and need. As of Wednesday, it was unknown how many test kits were available in Maryland.
“It’s much better than it was last week and nowhere near where it needs to be,” Hogan said in his press conference.
The state has also not said how many negative tests have come back. A directive from the Maryland secretary of health required labs to report weekly to the Maryland Department of Health how many negative and total number of tests it conducted.
The directive was signed three days ago, meaning laboratories might not have reported their weekly numbers yet. The numbers do not have to be reported to local health departments, Brookmyer said.
Hogan’s spokesman Mike Ricci tweeted that the state is working toward the point where the state would release the total number of people tested in the state, although he had no timetable.