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Correctional facility in Sykesville sees COVID-19 spike: 15 cases confirmed after universal testing, county says

The Central Maryland Correctional Facility in Sykesville has seen a spike in cases of COVID-19 after conducting universal testing, the Carroll County Health Department announced Monday.

Fifteen more “resident” cases have been confirmed, the health department said. A total of 22 people have contracted the virus at the facility, including one staffer who lives in Carroll. Two inmates there have died of the virus.

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Since June 17, the county had considered the facility to not have an active outbreak of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Maggie Kunz, spokesperson for the health department confirmed in an email Monday that the 15 new cases were detected through universal testing conducted at the facility.

That 15-case increase is larger than the new case totals Carroll has seen countywide every day since June 2, when the county reported 35 new cases.

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In a Monday night statement, spokesperson Mark Vernarelli of Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, which operates the facility, confirmed that universal testing is being conducted for all inmates and staff, and said “it is not unexpected to find significant increases in the total number of cases. Of note, many of these positive cases are asymptomatic.”

Inmates who present symptoms or are found to have had close contact with suspected COVID-19 cases are taken to an off-site care facility to be tested. Vernarelli said they are “either isolated or quarantined, equipped with personal protective equipment, and monitored for 14 days pending the outcome of the COVID-19 test.” Others without symptoms are tested on-site at the correctional facility, he said.

When an inmate or staffer tests positive, Vernarelli said, the department begins contact tracing to find people who might have come into contact with them, and the individual who tested positive is either admitted to an off-site care facility or is isolated at the correctional facility. “The Department has respiratory negative-airflow rooms throughout designated correctional facilities, as well as other isolation and quarantine housing,” Vernarelli said.

“The Department, in conjunction with the Department of Health, continues to analyze the findings of the ongoing testing, and will use the findings of the universal testing to identify opportunities to further reduce the risk of transmission within the correctional system,” he said.

According to the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services website, 333 inmates at the Sykesville facility have been tested and 29 have tested positive to date. A total of 107 staffers have been tested and 20 of those have returned positive as well, the website shows. Kunz said those figures are different because the county’s data comes from lab reports of positive cases just in Carroll and it can lag behind the state’s.

The health department also reported on Monday two more deaths in Carroll elder case facilities.

The county confirmed the 10th resident death at Longview Nursing Home in Manchester, where 43 residents and 25 staffers, 18 if whom live in Carroll, have tested positive.

A sixth resident of Brinton Woods Health and Rehab Center at Winfield has died from the disease, the county announced. A total of 31 residents and six staffers, two of whom live in Carroll, have been confirmed with the virus.

The health department also said a second staffer at Copper Ridge in Sykesville who lives in Carroll has tested positive. A staffer at that facility who does not live in Carroll previously tested positive, as did three residents.

A staffer at Flying Colors Group Home who lives in Carroll had been mischaracterized as a “community” case, a health department spokesperson said. Two other staffers there who do not live in Carroll have contracted the disease as well, as did two residents.

Carroll’s positivity rate, or the rate in which tests of Carroll residents return positive, dropped almost a whole percentage point since Friday, to 1.4%. That rate is reported as a seven-day rolling average based on data from the Maryland Department of Health.

Maryland’s average positivity rate over the past seven days is 5.03%, according to state officials.

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Six new cases among members of the wider community — that is, not in congregate living facilities, such as nursing homes and correctional facilities — were also announced Monday. Facilities that house multiple residents are particularly vulnerable to localized outbreaks — especially those that house the elderly and those with preexisting health conditions.

The county has now reported a total of 1,052 confirmed cases, 585 of which have been been in congregate living facilities. Carroll has seen 123 deaths, 109 from those living facilities.

Despite a recent decline in new cases, county health officer Ed Singer has cautioned that a spike could be possible in the coming weeks, and it’s still important for locals to observe social distancing guidelines.

The health department considers 310 people to be recovered from the disease, the same level seen June 19. The number of total hospitalizations for the disease of community members has not changed from 74 since June 18.

Anyone who thinks they or a family member might be showing coronavirus symptoms can call that hotline between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 410-876-4848, or contact their doctor. After hours, callers may leave a message or call 211. People with emergencies should continue to call 911.

Times reporter Catalina Righter contributed to this article.

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