Dr. Clifford Mitchell discusses COVID-19 testing at the Vehicle Emission Inspection Program station in Glen Burnie.
Pete sat in his car for two and half hours on a rainy Friday morning waiting in line for a coronavirus test.
The Pasadena resident, who asked not to use his last name, has been praying for an opportunity to get tested since he works at a Glen Burnie nursing home with multiple confirmed coronavirus cases, but hasn’t been able to secure a doctors note. Friday marks the second day Maryland residents without symptoms or an appointment can receive a free test at selection locations.
Pete was one of a 100 people tested every hour at the Vehicle Emission Inspection Program stations in Glen Burnie Friday. Nearly 800 tests were administered at the Maryland Fairgrounds testing site in Timonium on Thursday.
A line of cars snaked around East Ordnance Road waiting to enter the VEIP station starting at 6 a.m., said Clifford Mitchell, director of the environmental health bureau at the Maryland Health Department. The Glen Burnie testing site is one of three locations open to residents without symptoms this week, following the Timonium site Thursday. Another VEIP site launched in Hyattsville Friday with plans to prop up another location in Clifton next week.
Prior to Thursday the only people who could receive a coronavirus test were symptomatic, medically at risk or nursing home and congregant living facility residents. Hogan said more than 200,000 tests have been administered in the state, representing 3.5% of the population, allowing testing to expand to people who may have been exposed to the virus but don’t have any symptoms.
“We now broaden the testing to include people with very minor symptoms or no symptoms at all, those people can then receive advice to isolate at home, that will stop and slow the infection,” Mitchell said.
Gov. Larry Hogan announced Friday that additional COVID-19 testing sites will open at Walmart stores across the state. The announcement follows another emergency order issued by the governor earlier this week allowing 1,200 pharmacies to order and administer COVID-19 tests, including 17 CVS and two Rite Aid clinics.
Two CVS Pharmacies in Anne Arundel County will provide COVID-19 tests: one located at 2600 Annapolis Road in Severn and the other at 157 Ritchie Highway in Severna Park. The Anne Arundel County Rite Aid on 5804 Ritchie Hwy will have tests.
For people whose test results come back positive, they will be contacted by the health department and their close contacts will be notified. The person positive with coronavirus will begin 14-day isolation while their contacts will be asked to quarantine for 14 days. The increasing number of people tested across the state also means a clearer picture will emerge about how and where the virus has spread, according to health officials.
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Public health experts have said that having widespread testing available is a crucial component to mitigating the spread of the coronavirus as restrictions on activities and gatherings are eased.
The National Guard and Anne Arundel County health department workers manned the Glen Burnie VEIP site during its open hours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“We’re going to keep testing as long as we possibly can,” said Mitchell.
The state has also experienced a shortage in testing kits — the material needed to process the test specimen. Maryland is getting swabs and other materials from the federal government and state labs are making transport media if supply chain disruptions occur when getting that material to the state, Mitchell said. It isn’t clear if the Glen Burnie location is using a portion of the 500,000 test kits Hogan secured from South Korea in April.
“This is the beginning of what will be a regular process," Mitchell said.