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Coronavirus outbreak hits residents of Mount Airy retirement home as Maryland death toll doubles to 10, including 2 in Baltimore

An outbreak of the new coronavirus has infected 66 residents of the Pleasant View Nursing Home in Carroll County and left 11 of them hospitalized, Gov. Larry Hogan announced Saturday night.

At least one of the residents, a 90-year-old, died, officials said Sunday.

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Residents of the home in Mount Airy had been awaiting test results after two women in their 50s who live there contracted the virus.

Hogan called the outbreak tragic in a statement Saturday night.

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"Multiple state agencies are on the scene and working closely with the local health department and the facility as they take urgent steps to protect additional residents and staff who may have been exposed,” he said.

The Carroll County outbreak pushes past 1,000 the number of people in Maryland infected with the virus, officials said. The number of confirmed cases in the state had ballooned to 992 earlier Saturday, counting just 10 in Carroll, according to the Maryland Department of Health.

The state’s death toll also doubled Saturday with the announcement of five more COVID-19 fatalities. The latest victims were described as a Prince George’s County man in his 50s; a Charles County man in his 50s; a Wicomico County woman in her 60s; and two Baltimore women, one in her 60s and another in her 80s. The three women had underlying medical conditions, state officials said.

Carroll County Health Officials said the Pleasant View Nursing Home has implemented strict isolation measures for anyone with symptoms.

Pleasant View Nursing Home in Mount Airy is the site of an outbreak of the coronavirus. Health officials said at least 66 people there tested positive for the disease.
Pleasant View Nursing Home in Mount Airy is the site of an outbreak of the coronavirus. Health officials said at least 66 people there tested positive for the disease.(Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

“We’re maintaining constant communication and will continue to provide resources and support to the patients, their families and facility staff during this difficult time," said Ed Singer, Carroll County health officer, in a statement.

Staff at the nursing home had taken measures to curtail the outbreak. They restricted visits, group dining and activities, performed extra cleanings, and tested staff and residents for symptoms.

Rebecca Travels, administrator of the facility, said the staff did all they could to try and stop the virus from spreading. The long-term care facility opened about 46 years ago and has 104 beds.

“We will continue to work tirelessly, day and night, for as long as we need to in order to prevent further spread and to take really good care of the residents that we have here,” Travels said in an interview Friday after the first cases were announced.

Nursing homes are considered high-risk locations for the coronavirus, which is generally more dangerous for older adults and people with existing health problems. Similar facilities in Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Washington have seen outbreaks of the virus. In the Seattle suburbs, 35 residents died after an outbreak at the Life Care Center of Kirkland.

Professor Jennifer Nuzzo, a senior scholar in the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said the outbreak was deeply worrisome.

“Long-term care facilities house people who are the most vulnerable to severe illness and death from infection with this virus,” she said. “Were there to be more outbreaks like this, it could easily overwhelm local health facilities that will have to treat these patients.”

The two Baltimore women’s deaths were the city’s first from the global pandemic, Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young noted.

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“Our thoughts and prayers are with their families during this difficult time,” Young said in a statement. “It is vital that we continue to protect each other and vigilantly practice social distancing to safeguard our community.”

The city health department continued to investigate their deaths Saturday evening. Officials could not immediately provide more information, such as where the women contracted the virus and whether they were in contact with each other.

The state’s 992 cases confirmed Saturday morning by the state health department, before the announcement of the Mount Airy nursing home outbreak, represented a 28% increase in cases from the 774 known to have the disease statewide as of Friday.

While the number of Marylanders infected by the disease is almost certainly higher, for the first time Saturday the state health department released the number of negative tests: 11,516.

That means fewer than one in 12 people with symptoms suspicious enough to test for actually had the illness.

Most of Maryland’s known coronavirus cases were in Montgomery (255) and Prince George’s (196) counties, as of Saturday. Baltimore County had 141 known cases, Baltimore City had 112, Anne Arundel had 88, Howard had 73, Harford County had 21 cases, and Carroll County had 10, according to the state. All of those counties saw increases in positive tests from the day before.

Allegany and Dorchester counties remain the only two in Maryland with no reported cases.

An Anne Arundel County man in his 80s had died of the coronavirus, officials reported Friday. They had reported four other deaths last week: three men in their 60s and one woman in her 40s, all with underlying health conditions. The men lived in Prince George’s County and Baltimore County; the woman, in Montgomery County.

People ages 65 and older and those with compromised immune systems are considered most vulnerable to the disease, but most people in Maryland who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 are younger.

The state says 204 people in their 40s have tested positive for the disease, followed by 195 people in their 50s, 174 people in their 30s, 143 people in their 60s, 138 people in their 20s, 91 people in their 70s, 27 people over 80 and 15 people ages 10-19. There are five cases among children younger than 9.

COVID-19 has been found in 487 women and 505 men in the state.

All beach areas in Maryland state parks closed Saturday, and Natural Resources Police and the Maryland Park Service “are prepared to close or shut down any area of any park that gets overcrowded,” a spokesman for Gov. Larry Hogan said.

In Baltimore, crews began removing basketball court rims and tennis nets from city parks to try and stop the spread. Though parks remain open, city officials are asking residents to stay off playgrounds and other equipment that could be contaminated with the virus. The police department also restricted travel for city officers on duty.

In Baltimore County, officials announced Friday that a police officer and a firefighter have tested positive for COVID-19. Both are recovering in quarantine.

Also, USA Curling announced Friday that participants at a tournament this month in Laurel tested positive for the coronavirus. The United States Curling Association Club National Championships were held March 7-14 at Potomac Curling Club. Fox 5 DC reported that at least 20 people who participated in the event are sick. USA Curling did not respond to questions Saturday.

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Most child care centers in Maryland were forced to close by the end of the day Friday in an attempt to stem the outbreak. State schools remain closed for the next four weeks, with universities in Maryland’s system transitioning to online learning for the rest of the semester and K-12 learners expected to resume instruction remotely as early as next week.

Baltimore Sun Media reporter Mary Grace Keller and The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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