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Second resident of Mount Airy nursing home dies amid coronavirus outbreak; Oak Crest resident tests positive

An outbreak of coronavirus at Pleasant View Nursing Home in Mount Airy, MD has infected 66 residents, with one fatality reported on March 29.

A second Carroll County resident has died amid a major coronavirus outbreak at a Mount Airy nursing home, and in Howard County, officials revealed Monday that the virus killed a resident of a nursing home there earlier this month.

With a resident also testing positive at a Baltimore County retirement community Sunday, concern is growing in Maryland that the coronavirus could be potently spreading among older people living in close quarters, as it has in other states.

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In issuing a statewide stay-at-home order Monday, Gov. Larry Hogan said the restrictions are needed to prevent the virus from spreading to “literally thousands” of facilities in Maryland, including nursing homes.

Many of the facilities have been preparing for that possibility for more than a month, even before cases of COVID-19 were reported in the U.S., said Joe DeMattos, executive director of the Health Facilities Association of Maryland. But DeMattos said he doesn’t expect them all to succeed in preventing contagion.

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“The reality is there will be more outbreaks,” he said.

The second COVID-19 victim at Pleasant View Nursing Home in Mount Airy was a man in his 80s with underlying health conditions, Carroll health officials said. He was among 66 residents there who tested positive for the virus last week, and one of them, a man in his 90s, died Saturday. At least 17 of the residents were taken to hospitals in Carroll and Frederick counties over the weekend.

And Carroll health officials said tests came back positive Monday for 11 more residents, meaning 77 of 95 residents living at the facility contracted the virus. The other 18 tested negative, officials said.

The residents, all of whom require skilled nursing services, live four to a room, separated by privacy curtains, said Rebecca Travels, the facility’s administrator. Some share bathrooms.

Travels said that earlier this month, she had wanted to preemptively test staff and residents, but they didn’t meet criteria for testing, including international travel or contact with a confirmed positive case.

It wasn’t until Wednesday that residents could be tested through a private lab, she said. She expressed frustration with the delay, saying all health care facilities should be able to press for testing — and to demand it for their staff.

“As an industry, as an administrator, one of the frustrating things, I think, for all of us at that time, was the lack of availability, the lack of access to testing,” Travels said. “I don’t want this to happen to anyone else."

In Howard County, officials at the Residences at Vantage Point in Columbia said a resident at the retirement community who recently died at a hospital tested positive for COVID-19. They did not provide further details.

And in Baltimore County, a resident at the Oak Crest retirement community in Parkville also has tested positive for the virus. Facility owner Erickson Living said Monday that staff are monitoring residents and employees for symptoms of the respiratory virus that has now infected more than 1,400 Marylanders.

The cases come as nursing homes were already bracing for the coronavirus.

DeMattos said the organization representing a wide variety of health care facilities, including those serving senior citizens, had in February started urging staff to wear personal protective equipment and to aggressively screen for travelers from overseas. They later urged Hogan to demand all nursing homes restrict visitor access, which he ordered March 10.

Coronavirus outbreaks have already occurred in nursing homes in states including Washington, New Jersey, Arkansas and Illinois. In one of the first major clusters of infection in the United States, dozens of residents at the Life Care Center in suburban Seattle fell sick and died of the virus.

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As the first cases began getting reported in Maryland at the start of the month, residents of a retirement community in Rockville began self-isolating after staff reported that a coronavirus patient had attended an event there. The Villages at Rockville also canceled all events. It has not reported any residents falling ill from the virus since.

Infectious diseases have long been of concern in nursing homes, where older patients with compromised immune systems are at the highest risk for serious infections and complications.

Nationally, an estimated 765,000 to 2.8 million infections occur per year in long-term care facilities, and nursing homes account for 45% of all reported outbreaks in the country, according to the Maryland Infection Control Group at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, which advises facilities on ways to protect residents.

Still, nursing facilities across the nation continue to score poorly in federal evaluations, including in areas of cleanliness and staffing. That includes facilities in Maryland.

In 2017, the inspector general for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that Maryland had failed to investigate nearly 650 allegations of harm at Maryland nursing homes within a required 10-day window, missing the federal deadline 74 percent of the time. It ranked seventh-worst in the nation.

Federal auditors found similar problems in 1999, 2006 and 2011, too, but more recent data has shown improvement. Maryland’s number of high-priority complaints not investigated within 10 days fell from 915 in 2016 to 269 in 2018.

Baltimore Sun Media Group reporter Jess Nocera and The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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