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Another 40 COVID-19 cases confirmed at correctional facility in Sykesville, county says, amid universal testing

The Central Maryland Correctional Facility in Sykesville saw 40 new confirmed COVID-19 cases in 24 hours, the Carroll County Health Department reported Thursday, signaling a worsening outbreak there.

That represents a 65% one-day increase in confirmed cases at that facility, which now has 62 total cases confirmed, county data show. The facility saw a smaller spike in new cases Monday, when the county announced 15 more people had contracted the disease there.

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Two inmates have died of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. It’s unclear whether any staffers are included in the latest figures though the county had previously confirmed one staffer had tested positive.

The 40-case spike at the correctional facility is larger than any single-day increase in new cases countywide since June 1, when Carroll reported 53 confirmed cases.

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The health department attributes these increases to universal testing that has been conducted at the correctional facility.

Spokesperson Mark Vernarelli of the state’s Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, which operates the facility, said Monday 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.

As of Monday, 333 inmates at the Sykesville facility have been tested and 29 have tested positive, whereas 107 staffers have been tested and 20 have returned positive, according to the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services website.

Rachel Tabler, spokesperson for the county health department, said state data is different from the health department’s because the facility reports its test results directly to the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, which updates its figures once a week.

Before Monday, the county had considered the facility to not have an active outbreak since June 17.

Congregate living facilities that house multiple residents, such as nursing homes and correctional facilities, are particularly vulnerable to localized outbreaks — especially those that house the elderly and those with preexisting health conditions.

Other updates

Another resident of Birch Manor Healthcare Center in Sykesville was confirmed with the disease, bringing the resident case total to 63. Of those, 15 have died. Five staffers, four of whom live in Carroll, have also tested positive.

The Carroll health department this week also released race and ethnicity data for those who have contracted COVID-19 in congregate living facilities.

The figures, first posted online Tuesday, show 84% of congregate living facility residents to test positive are white, 14% are black and 2% are another race.

The rate of infection for black Carroll countians is over four times the U.S. Census’ countywide percentage of black residents in the county: 3.8%. The share of county residents who are white is 91.9%.

Broken down by ethnicity, 2% of positive cases are among Hispanic residents, whereas 98% are non-Hispanic. According to the U.S. Census data from July 1, 2019, the most recent data available, 3.7% of Carroll countians are Hispanic or Latino.

Carroll’s positivity rate, or the rate in which tests of Carroll residents return positive, rose again, climbing from 3.47% Wednesday to 4.31% Thursday. 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 5.05%, according to state officials.

Three more residents of the wider community — that is, not in congregate living facilities — were confirmed with the disease since Wednesday. The county has now reported a total of 1,110 confirmed cases, 639 of which have been been in congregate living facilities. Carroll has seen 125 deaths, 111 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 remained at 76 for the third straight day.

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.

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