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Howard County’s six 50+ centers to reopen Friday at 50% capacity and by appointment only

Howard County’s six 50+ centers will open Friday at 50% capacity and by appointment only.

Jackie Scott, director of the Department of Community Resources and Services, made the announcement at a news conference Monday, alongside other Howard County officials including County Executive Calvin Ball. Seniors centers in Howard County and across Maryland have been closed since March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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“This progress is a testament to our grassroots effort to quickly reach our seniors and our most vulnerable populations,” Ball said.

Howard County officials made the announcement from the recently renovated Bain 50+ Center in Columbia.

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“Prior to the pandemic, our 50+ centers provided key resources and services across our county,” Ball said.

The older adult population accounts for one-third of Howard’s total population, according to Ball. At the 50+ centers, that population can utilize resources like fitness classes and insurance consultations.

The 50+ centers recorded 250,000 annual visits before COVID-19 hit. Adapting programming over the past year, the centers hosted virtual events, which saw 33,000 visits, and delivery of nearly 90,000 grab-and-go meals.

Ball said the Office of Aging and Independence plans to continue to offer the virtual programming for the rest of the year.

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When centers reopen Friday with COVID-19 safety restrictions in place — including wearing masks and maintaining social distance — select services will resume, such as health insurance counseling, Maryland Access Point counseling, continuing education, and limited health and wellness programs. Fitness and equipment rooms also will reopen.

Ball said additional services and programs will be phased back in over time.

“Be assured, we are taking into account all measures to safely and responsibly provide the much-needed services and important resources through our 50+ center network,” Scott said.

As of Monday, Ball said 99% of residents ages 75 or older have at least gotten their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 90% of residents ages 65 to 74 also have gotten at least their first dose.

“It’s really time to reengage, to be able to work out on the fabulous equipment, to socialize and sort of resume our new normal as more people are becoming vaccinated and as we hope the trend of fewer cases continues,” said Dr. Maura Rossman, Howard’s health officer.

As of Monday, Howard County’s seven-day average testing positivity rate was 3.8%, its lowest since March 24, according to the Maryland Department of Health. The county’s case rate per 100,000 people per day, reported as an average over the past seven days, was 13.29, much lower than the beginning of the month when it hit 20.22 on April 3.

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