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Baltimore County plans to open new testing site, move to appointment only for all locations next week

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. announced Wednesday that a new “large scale” COVID-19 testing site will open in White Marsh next week and all other locations will move to appointment-only services after increased demand amid a recent surge in virus infections.

The Democrat also said that the county will distribute 100,000 at-home rapid COVID tests among residents. It is expected that the tests will begin to be distributed on Monday and more details about how residents can receive one will be released in the coming days, Olszewski said. The tests were secured by using the county’s state of emergency procurement authority through American Rescue Plan funds, which is the federal coronavirus aid passed by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden last March.

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Olszewski said the new testing site is needed amid the surge of coronavirus cases due to the omicron variant. He also said by limiting testing to appointments only, it will help quell long wait times.

The new test site will be at the former Sears location at the White Marsh Mall and more information about times and how to secure an appointment will be available on the county’s website later this week. The site is slated to open on Monday, Olszewski said.

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“Across our state we continue to see long lines of those who want to get tested,” the county executive said. “We even saw people standing out in the middle of the snowstorm earlier this week to get tested.”

Last week, Olszewski announced he was reinstating a state of emergency during the coronavirus pandemic, giving the administration authority to require face coverings indoors to all individuals 5 and older patronizing restaurants and food businesses, retail stores, houses of worship, or any establishment that serves the public. On Monday, the Baltimore County council approved a mask mandate through the end of January.

The local state-of-emergency order gives Olszewski’s administration special powers over safety measures like capacity limits and allows the county to move more quickly to acquire supplies like masks and COVID-19 tests, which have become scarcer.

Nearly 2,000 Baltimore County residents have died from COVID-19 complications during the pandemic. Statewide, almost 11,800 Marylanders have been killed by the virus, and the testing positivity rate has surged to 28.56%

The state confirmed 10,286 new coronavirus cases over the last 24 hours, bringing the pandemic case count to more than 776,000 as of Wednesday morning.

With the influx of cases, hospitals are struggling to keep up with the 3,118 COVID patients and many have been pushed past capacity, forcing them to adopt crisis care standards. One of those hospitals is the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson, which adopted emergency protocols Monday.

The latest testing site will “compliment” existing test sites in Randallstown, Towson and Dundalk. The county is also planning to expand testing hours, Olszewski said, and is exploring offering weekend options.

Baltimore Sun reporter Taylor DeVille contributed to this article.

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