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Howard County announces research partnership with Applied Physics Lab, new coronavirus testing site in Savage

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel and Howard County government have announced a partnership to increase research of infectious diseases using emerging technologies.

“We’re ... looking forward to our partnership with Johns Hopkins APL,” Howard County Executive Calvin Ball said in a statement. “As we prepare our residents and business community for the length of this pandemic, this collaboration will help to identify emerging technologies that will better position Howard County to combat COVID-19.”

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The Applied Physics Laboratory will serve as a technical adviser to the county on the efficacy of serology testing — an antibody blood test that looks for signs of a previous COVID-19 infection — and the use of air filtration systems that use UV lights to neutralize bacteria and virus particles. Through the memorandum of agreement, APL will make recommendations as to how the county can mitigate the spread of infectious diseases.

“Our staff are learning more about the best ways to fight COVID-19 every day,” said APL Director Ralph Semmel, who contracted and survived the coronavirus in the spring, in a statement. “This partnership provides an opportunity to harness relevant data to develop useful technologies for that fight and support the county’s response to the global pandemic.”

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Ball also announced a new drive-thru coronavirus testing site at the Savage Volunteer Fire Company building in cooperation with Quality First Urgent Care.

“Our partnership with Quality First Urgent Care allows us to deploy more accessible testing to Howard County residents, who will not need an appointment or doctor’s orders,” Ball said in a statement.

Quality First Urgent Care is running the new testing site in Savage, which will be open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The site at 8521 Corridor Road will have scheduled appointments, but they are not mandatory. Translation services also will be available.

The partnership creates increased access to testing for residents in the surrounding area, which has seen one of the higher case rates per population. The 20723 ZIP code, which includes the Savage, Fulton and Laurel areas, has seen 393 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Tuesday, according to county Health Department data.

“This new site at Savage allows for expanded testing in Howard County,” Howard County Health Officer Maura Rossman said in a statement. “We encourage anyone who believes that they should be tested, whether because of being in a larger gathering or just to be able to protect those around them who may be at higher risk.”

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