Maryland confirms more COVID-19 cases in nursing homes, correctional facilities

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Gov. Larry Hogan discusses the latest updates in the state’s response to COVID-19 on Friday. Screengrab from Governor Larry Hogan’s Facebook.

There are 60 nursing homes across Maryland with confirmed cases of COVID-19, Gov. Larry Hogan and other state officials said Friday.

Despite banning visitors, screening staff and other individuals entering facilities, and instituting other protocols to control infections, nursing homes are still experiencing outbreaks of COVID-19, said Fran Phillips, Maryland’s deputy secretary of health.

Phillips said any staff person in any nursing home who has direct contact with patients will be required to wear a face mask at work.

While older residents and people with underlying health conditions are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19, they are hardly the only ones affected by the virus, Hogan said.

As of this morning, 32 percent of the state’s confirmed cases were people younger than 40 years old. Phillips reiterated the importance of people of all ages to obey social distancing to keep vulnerable people safe.

Hogan said 416 people are currently hospitalized due to COVID-19, and 43 percent of those patients are in intensive care units.

“We now have widespread, community transmission. This virus is everywhere and it is a threat to nearly everyone,” he said.

Officials are working to acquire ventilators to help treat ICU patients in need of respiratory assistance.

Phillips said the state is working to procure more ventilators through federal and private channels. It is also looking at ventilators already in Maryland, such as those at colleges and universities, as well as those used for anesthesia for short-term procedures at surgical centers, which could be converted to be used in ICUs.

“Believe me, we’re scouring the state for all of the available ventilators that we can find,” Phillips said.

Hogan, along with House Speaker Adrienne Jones and Senate President Bill Ferguson, on Friday signed emergency legislation into law expanding tele-health resources across the state, allowing residents to get medical attention without flooding health care offices.

Hogan also enacted executive orders to ensure that people who provide services to the disabled are recognized as essential health care workers.

As a growing number of Marylanders have been laid off due to the coronavirus and are filing for unemployment, Hogan enacted executive orders prohibiting mortgage lenders from initiating foreclosure processes; prohibiting the repossession of cars, trucks and mobile homes; suspending certain lending limits for Maryland banks on a case by case basis; and suspending all debt collection activities by executive state agencies.

Robert Green, Maryland secretary for public safety and correctional services, said the correctional system now has 17 cases of COVID-19, including three inmates, eight contractual employees, four correctional officers, and two parole/probation employees.

Prisons and jails have rolled out video visitation and free phone calls for incarcerated people to contact their families, Green said.

He said there is also a hotline for families of people in the system to call if they are concerned about their loved ones. That number is (410) 769-6419 and is answered 24 hours a day.

Inmates are making medical gowns, hand sanitizer, face shields and face masks to be used by correctional staff and health care providers, Green said.

The ACLU of Maryland on Friday criticized Hogan for the state’s response to COVID-19 in Maryland’s jails and prisons. The organization said reducing the number of people in correctional facilities is “essential” to managing the spread of the virus in jails and prisons.

“Hogan’s response shows an utter disregard for the humanity of the mostly Black and Brown Marylanders who are disproportionately incarcerated,” Dana Vickers Shelley, executive director of the ACLU of Maryland, said in a statement. “Hogan’s response harkens back to the darkest days of history, when Black people were forced to work for the benefit of others, while their own safety and humanity were disregarded.”

Shelley pushed Hogan to act to immediately to release certain groups from correctional facilities, including children, people whose sentences are ending soon, older people, and people at a high risk for COVID-19.

“He has the power. He needs to do it now,” she said.

Marcus Dieterle


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