Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and other state officials said Friday they have identified coronavirus cases or clusters of cases in 60 different nursing home and senior living facilities and multiple correctional facilities across the state, as Carroll County health officials announced the sixth death at one Mount Airy facility alone.
They also warned again that the virus does not only affect the old or vulnerable: It has been found in people of all ages and backgrounds as it continues to sweep across Maryland, the nation and the world.
As of Friday, 416 coronavirus patients had been hospitalized in the state, with 43% — nearly 180 people — in intensive care, Hogan said.
“We now have widespread, community transmission," the Republican governor said. “This virus is everywhere and it is a threat to nearly everyone.”
To control the spread and protect residents in the hobbled economy, Hogan also expanded housing protections to homeowners and commercial and industrial renters, issuing an executive order that bars banks and other lenders from initiating foreclosure proceedings against mortgage holders, and preventing landlords from evicting commercial and industrial renters. Hogan previously halted evictions of residential renters.
The governor also put a halt during the current state of emergency to the repossession of cars and motor homes. And he said 70 banks, mortgage lenders and other financial lenders in the state have agreed to provide additional flexibility to those in debt.
The Republican governor made his comments in Annapolis Friday afternoon, after officials reported an 18% jump in the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the state from the day prior, to 2,758. There have been 42 deaths in Maryland.
“I wish that I could tell you when we’re going to turn the corner," Hogan said. "We simply don’t know just how bad things are going to get, or exactly how long this is going to last.”
Hogan then quoted former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who presided over that country during World War II, as saying, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
“That is exactly what we are all going to have to do,” Hogan said.
Frances Phillips, the state’s deputy secretary for public health services, said nursing homes have been hit hard.
“We have outbreaks across the state now,” she said.
She noted the cluster of more than 90 cases among residents and staff at the Pleasant View Nursing Home in Mount Airy in Carroll County, but said multiple other homes have clusters of seven to 10 cases.
Carroll County officials announced Friday that a sixth Pleasant View resident had died, and six additional staff members had tested positive for the virus, bringing the total to 24. The sixth resident to die was a man in his 80s with underlying conditions, they said.
Phillips said there is “clear evidence” now that asymptomatic staff are helping the spread. She said the state is now ordering “universal masking” among staff, meaning all workers within nursing homes must wear masks.
Robert L. Green, Maryland secretary of public safety and correctional services, said they now have 17 cases of the coronavirus within the state’s network of jails and prisons, including three inmates, eight contractual employees, four corrections officers and two parole and probation personnel.
Individuals who are worried about family members within the corrections system can call a state hotline for information at 410-769-6419.
Individuals within the corrections system are now producing face shields, masks and hand sanitizer, Green said.
The acute respiratory disease caused by the virus has now affected more than a million people globally. The pandemic has forced strict control measures, including a stay-at-home order that Hogan instituted in Maryland. A record 84,000 Marylanders filed for unemployment last week, part of a massive economic contraction globally.
Hogan has said the spread of the virus, which is overwhelming health care facilities, including in the New York area, is only going to get worse in Maryland before it gets better.
Phillips said state officials have looked at models for the trajectory of the virus in the state, and that the governor is leaning on experts to interpret those models. She said each model is only as good as the “assumptions that are built into them."
”Clearly what the governor has said is that we are on the beginning of a curve," she said.
Phillips repeatedly called the coronavirus a “sneaky virus,” about which new information is constantly emerging. She said healthcare workers must wear high-quality masks. Information about whether members of the general public should wear “cloth masks” is evolving, she said, but such masks would be beneficial if worn by people with symptoms, to not spread the virus to others around them.
Phillips said it is critical for staff at nursing homes to wear masks. But everyone should be careful, because the virus is affecting both young and old residents, she said.
“It’s important that we smother these nursing homes with infection control,” she said, “but do not think that virus is only in nursing homes."
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”This virus is here and it’s in our communities."
Phillips said the most important thing state officials are doing right now is procuring ventilators — looking everywhere they can to increase capacity at state hospitals, including on the open market and in medical schools and other facilities across Maryland.
“Believe, we are scouring this state for all of the available ventilators that we can put into use,” she said.
They also are doing everything they can to expand the testing capability in the state, but they still can’t get needed equipment that they requested from the federal government.
Hogan said initial construction has been completed on a new field hospital within the Baltimore Convention Center, adding much needed beds to the state’s hospital capacity. More than 5,400 people have signed up for the state’s volunteer medical corps, designed to provide backup to healthcare workers, he said.
Hogan said he understands people are frustrated with not being able to attend religious services, and called for a statewide moment of unity this coming Sunday.
“At noon this Sunday, I am calling on all Marylanders, regardless of faith, to join together at home, or wherever you are, in a moment of prayer or reflection for those we have lost, those who are sick, and the doctors, nurses, clinicians, health care workers and first responders on the front lines around the clock, working to bring about a new dawn in our history,” Hogan said.