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Maryland nursing homes ask Gov. Hogan to allow all their residents and staff to be tested for coronavirus

Maryland’s nursing homes are asking Gov. Larry Hogan to use a surge of 500,000 coronavirus tests obtained from South Korea to conduct universal testing on all of their residents and staff.

Testing has remained limited for anyone who isn’t showing symptoms of COVID-19 infection, but who are believed to have introduced the virus to vulnerable elderly populations. The leaders of three nursing home industry groups, the Health Facilities Association of Maryland, LifeSpan Network and Leading Age Maryland, say that has made it difficult for nursing home administrators to “proactively manage their communities.”

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“While we understand the challenges associated with testing asymptomatic individuals, waiting for both employees and residents to develop symptoms almost guarantees additional infections,” they wrote in a letter to Hogan.

Hogan spokesman Mike Ricci said “all options are under consideration” as the state moves to roll out increased testing, noting that the governor on Monday said the surge of new tests would go to “high-priority areas, such as nursing and group homes.”

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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan discusses the four building blocks for recovery which includes wide spread testing for COVID-19.

Nursing homes in Maryland and around the country have been hit especially hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Maryland officials have said coronavirus cases have been confirmed in 169 of the state’s 226 nursing homes, and that 74% of the people the virus has killed in the state are age 60 or older.

The state has declined to provide lists of nursing homes with confirmed outbreaks, however, or to break down how many of those deaths have involved nursing home residents.

Health officials have said that it was an asymptomatic staff member who sparked the outbreak at Pleasant View nursing home in Mount Airy, where more than two dozen residents have died from COVID-19.

And it was universal testing of residents and staff, sought out by nursing home operator FutureCare over concern about possible asymptomatic spread of the virus, that revealed an outbreak infecting at least 129 residents and 41 staff members at FutureCare Lochearn. At least two residents there have died, according to family members.

Healthcare workers look out windows at FutureCare Lochearn after officials said they uncovered an outbreak of COVID-19 among its population of 200 residents.
Healthcare workers look out windows at FutureCare Lochearn after officials said they uncovered an outbreak of COVID-19 among its population of 200 residents.(Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun)

The nursing home groups told the governor that facilities “have been left to contract with labs on their own for testing, a challenging and frustrating endeavor, but one deemed necessary to protect staff and residents.”

Hogan recently secured enough equipment to test 500,000 people through a deal with South Korea that the governor said his wife, Yumi Hogan, largely negotiated. He called it “an exponential, game-changing step forward on our large-scale testing initiative.”

This article will be updated.

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