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Maryland sees its deadliest day of coronavirus pandemic as casualties continue to mount in nursing homes

Maryland reported 40 coronavirus deaths Tuesday, the most in the state in a single day so far, as the casualties mounted above 300.

The state is closing on another grim benchmark, with 9,432 confirmed cases Tuesday, it’s expected to become the nation’s 14th to confirm more than 10,000 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, on Wednesday.

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The spread of the virus in nursing homes and other elder care facilities continues to drive some of the surge in infections and deaths around the Baltimore region and across Maryland.

At Genesis Loch Raven Center, a Parkville assisted living facility, four people have died and testing revealed 47 infections since an outbreak first appeared there a week and a half ago, operator Genesis HealthCare said Tuesday. One person has died at Genesis Heritage Center in Dundalk. And two dozen residents are in isolation at a Westminster nursing home after four of them tested positive for COVID-19.

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Andrea Mack said her 74-year-old father, John, is among those who tested positive at Westminster Healthcare Center. But she only learned of his illness when a friend who works at Carroll Hospital asked how her father was doing.

Facility staff did not have living will or power of attorney documents that would have alerted them to call her, or would allow them to give her information on his condition, she said. She eventually learned that he is on a ventilator and “not doing well."

“No one would give me any information," Mack said. “I thought my dad was dead."

Fred Stratmann, a spokesman for facility owner CommuniCare, declined to comment on Mack’s situation, saying it would be a violation of the federal health privacy law to discuss a resident’s care.

He said the two dozen residents who are showing symptoms or believed to have been exposed to the coronavirus are being kept isolated from the rest of the facility’s 116 residents.

The virus can run rampant through such facilities as demonstrated by an outbreak at Pleasant View Nursing Home that’s killed 24 of 98 residents and infected 57 other residents and 39 staffers.

At Genesis Loch Raven Center, an outbreak that started with eight positive COVID-19 tests April 3 has since spread to 50 more. Fourteen staff members and nearly half of the facility’s 92 residents have tested positive, including the four residents who have died, Genesis spokeswoman Lori Mayer said.

One person has died out of six residents who have tested positive at the company’s Dundalk facility and four staff members are confirmed to be infected, Mayer said.

Genesis staff members are following “to the letter the direction of the Maryland Department of Health" to contain the virus, Mayer said.

Infected residents are being isolated in their rooms, and their families have been notified of their condition, Mayer said. All residents are being checked three times a day for their temperatures and symptoms, she said.

In a statement, Genesis HealthCare Chief Medical Officer Richard Feifer said the facilities have been able to maintain an adequate supply of personal protective equipment, including standard face masks, gowns, gloves and respirators “by shifting supplies among our facilities and resourceful sourcing.”

He added that more federal government assistance is needed to ensure adequate testing is available for nursing homes, but acknowledged that Maryland has made efforts to improve access to testing. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan last week ordered expedited testing for nursing homes through the Maryland State Public Health Laboratory.

The Baltimore Sun reported earlier this month that a lack of testing contributed to the Pleasant View Nursing Home outbreak, which has become one of the nation’s largest in a single facility.

State health department data shows infections continue to spread in the community and among people of all age groups. Of 9,472 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Maryland, more than two-thirds of people infected are under age 60.

Still, older people remain most at risk: 85% of Marylanders who have died from COVID-19 are over 60. Nearly one in six confirmed cases in people who are at least 80 years old have ended in death.

The 21215 ZIP code that includes parts of northwestern Baltimore City and western Baltimore County continues to have the largest number of confirmed coronavirus cases, in the third day since the state began releasing ZIP code-level data.

Prince George’s, Montgomery and Baltimore counties have the largest numbers of infections, followed by Baltimore City, where the case total is approaching 1,000.

About 49% of people infected in the state whose race was known are black, though that group represents only 30% of Maryland’s overall population according to U.S. census data. Slightly more than half of those who have died from COVID-19 whose races were known were black, accounting for 120 of the 238 victims of known race through Monday.

Baltimore Sun reporter Nathan Ruiz contributed to this article.

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