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2 more coronavirus deaths announced in Carroll County; more nursing home staff members test positive

An employee at Lorien Mount Airy, an assisted living, skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility, has tested positive for COVID-19, according to a letter sent to residents and families.
An employee at Lorien Mount Airy, an assisted living, skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility, has tested positive for COVID-19, according to a letter sent to residents and families. (Jeffrey F. Bill)

The Carroll County Health Department announced more new COVID-19 cases in the community Friday, including the second death of a person not associated with a long-term care facility.

As of Friday evening, the latest figures available, Carroll County has seen 224 confirmed cases of COVID-19 — up from 205 Thursday — and 22 deaths, with many of both coming from nursing home facilities.

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The community member who died was a woman in her 70s, according to Maggie Kunz, spokesperson for the Carroll County Health Department.

The county also reported an additional death Friday, though they would not specify where. It was not at Pleasant View Nursing Home in Mount Airy or Carroll Lutheran Village in Westminster, and it was not a member of the “community,” that is, not residents or staff of a long-term care facility. Six facilities have been “impacted” by the coronavirus, according to the county.

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“At this time, we are not going to share information about facilities with small outbreaks,” Kunz said. “We are working closely with all facilities to make sure they have the resources to control the spread. Facilities should be informing their residents, families, and staff about cases and what they are doing.”

A total of 92 cases — up from 85 Thursday — have been reported among people in the “community.” Of those 92, 41 are women and 51 are men, while two are between the ages of 10 and 19; 20 are between ages 20 and 29; seven are between ages 30 and 39; 12 between ages 40 and 49; 35 between ages 50 and 59; nine between ages 60 and 69; five between ages 70 and 79; and two between the ages of 80 and 89.

As community spread of COVID-19 increases, the bulk of the COVID-19 cases and deaths in Carroll have been associated with one more more elder care facilities, and with their resident populations at high risk for complications from COVID-19, they remain the front lines for the spread of, and public health reaction to, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

At Pleasant View Nursing Home, 81 residents and 31 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19, and 18 residents there have died.

At Carroll Lutheran Village, 21 residents and six staff members have tested positive, up from five staff members Thursday. One resident there has died.

An employee at the Lorien nursing home facility in Mount Airy has tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

In a letter to residents and families dated April 9, it was reported that the staff member had not been in the facility for 13 days and, prior to that time, had been wearing a mask. It’s not clear from the letter why the employee was wearing a mask at that time, as the letter acknowledges that Lorien facilities did not enact universal mask wearing until April 2.

That announcement comes just days after the Lorien facility in Taneytown confirmed that two residents there had tested positive for COVID-19, though, according to Lorien Mount Airy facility Administrator Suzanne Giangrasso, no residents at that facility have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Friday afternoon.

The letter Mount Airy staff sent to residents and families noted that all employees are being screened for fever upon entering the facility; that any staff member with symptoms of any illness are being sent home; and that anyone who tests positive or has had contact with a coronavirus-positive person must be cleared by the Maryland Department of Health before they return to work.

Lorien has also created new units in all its nursing homes — but not assisted living facilities — an admission unit where any coronavirus-negative resident returning from the hospital will remain for 14 days, and a COVID-19 unit for any resident who is coronavirus positive.

The coronavirus is especially dangerous for older adults and anyone with compromised health. Gov. Larry Hogan has said that at least 90 nursing homes in the state have COVID-19 cases, and his administration has created “strike teams” to support such facilities seeing outbreaks.

Thursday morning saw the first visit of such a team in Carroll County — and possibly in the state — at Carroll Lutheran Village, according to Ken Connelly, vice president of operations for Lutheran Social Ministries of Maryland.

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“It was Wednesday, we got a call late afternoon that they wanted to come out. We were like, that’s great, bring 'em out,” Connelly said. “We weren’t really sure what to expect, but we knew we would welcome the expertise and guidance, for sure.”

The visit took just over an hour, from 10 a.m. till about 11 a.m., according to Connelly, with the team reviewing Carroll Lutheran Village’s COVID-19 nursing home infection survey and plans for management.

“They walked around, they asked a lot of questions about our systems,” he said. “They didn’t really recommend any different fundamental changes. They said it sounded like we were doing everything we could possibly do.”

COVID-19 cases at Carroll Lutheran Village are currently limited to the facility’s health care center, Connelly noted, with no cases so far in their residential living areas.

The strike team left Connelly and his team with direct contacts they can reach out to for further assistance, or personal protection equipment, although he noted they are currently well stocked, and well supported in things like testing through the Carroll County Health Department.

“With our monitoring process, any resident that has a sniffle or sneeze, we are getting them tested right away,” he said. “Carroll County Health Department has been amazing, they have been giving us an allotment of tests.”

From the beginning, Connelly said, the approach at their facility has been to assume spread of the virus could not be prevented entirely and to plan ahead to manage and minimize cases.

“I think it was as of the beginning of the week, there were 89 nursing homes in the state of Maryland that had COVID cases,” he said. “If anybody at this point doesn’t have any cases, they should still be planning, because they will.”

Nationwide, as of Friday afternoon, the coronavirus had resulted in more than 18,000 deaths in the United States out of more than 486,000 people who have tested positive for the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University. The World Health Organization deemed the coronavirus a pandemic March 11.

Anyone who thinks they or a family member might be showing coronavirus symptoms can call the Carroll County Health Department’s COVID-19 hotline, which is available 8 a.m. through 5 p.m. seven days a week 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.

Updates on the number of Maryland cases and other important information can be found on the health department’s COVID-19 webpage at cchd.maryland.gov/covid-19/.

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Times reporter Mary Grace Keller contributed to this article.

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