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Baltimore opens second coronavirus testing site at Druid Hill Park, plans third in East Baltimore next week

Baltimore City Mayor Young announces a new coronavirus testing site in the city.

Baltimore has opened a second coronavirus testing site in the Rawlings Conservatory at Druid Hill Park, Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young announced Tuesday.

The site, which is being operated in cooperation with the Maryland National Guard, began offering tests Tuesday. Like the city’s existing testing site at Pimlico Race Course, an appointment and a referral from a doctor are required. Patients can walk into the conservatory site, while the Pimlico center offers drive-thru service.

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Baltimore has been working to expand its testing capacity in response to the coronavirus, which has killed more than 500 Marylanders and sickened thousands more. City officials said previously they are trying to locate the centers in the city’s hardest-hit areas. The first, opened at Pimlico Race Course on April 10, is in one of Baltimore’s most affected ZIP codes: 21215 in Northwest Baltimore. That area had 273 cases of the virus as of Tuesday.

The newest testing site is in the 21217 ZIP code, which had 62 cases of the virus as of Tuesday. A third site is expected to open in East Baltimore next week, said city health commissioner Letitia Dzirasa.

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Pimlico’s testing site was initially expected to test about 50 people per day, but has exceeded 100 tests daily on certain days, according to data provided by the city. To this point, the state has been providing 100 tests per week to Baltimore, Dzirasa said.

On Monday, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced the $9 million purchase of 500,000 coronavirus testing kits from South Korea for use in the state. Asked how many the city expected to receive, Young quipped “We hope we get a lot.”

Young made the announcements Tuesday during a news conference at Baltimore City Hall that was repeatedly interrupted by protesters demanding Young do more for the city’s homeless population in the midst of the pandemic. Minutes after the mayor began speaking, the advocates unfurled a banner next to him reading “Homeless can’t go home." Dozens of cars encircled the block where the outdoor news conference was held, drowning out the mayor with a chorus of honking horns.

“He’s putting my life and everyone else’s life in danger,” bellowed Mark Council, a leader from advocacy group Housing Our Neighbors.

Advocates circulated news releases calling for Young to find more permanent housing for the homeless during the pandemic rather than allowing people to remain in shelters. Questioned by the protesters at the end of the news conference, Young said his administration has been doing “a whole lot to support homeless people.”

Sheryl Goldstein, the city’s deputy chief of staff for operations, said city officials have relocated 160 homeless people over the age of 62 who have not tested positive for the virus into hotels. Baltimore officials have also opened a new shelter space with social distancing measures, allowing 155 people to move out of smaller shelters, she said.

An additional 100 hotel rooms have been offered to the homeless who have tested positive for COVID-19 or who are awaiting test results, Goldstein said. Those rooms are full.

Mayor Bernard C. "Jack" Young holds a news conference at Baltimore City Hall on Tuesday to announce a new coronavirus testing site in the city.
Mayor Bernard C. "Jack" Young holds a news conference at Baltimore City Hall on Tuesday to announce a new coronavirus testing site in the city. (Emily Opilo/Baltimore Sun)

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