Maryland forms strike teams to battle virus in nursing homes

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland is forming special strike teams with members of the National Guard to help fight the coronavirus in nursing homes, an effort Gov. Larry Hogan described Tuesday as the first of its kind in the nation.

Hogan, who heads the National Governors Association, also said the Trump administration has designated the Baltimore-Washington corridor as a priority for federal attention, as the number of cases rise in and around the nation’s capital where many federal workers live and work.

Maryland now has cases and clusters of cases at 90 nursing homes or long-term care facilities across the state, Hogan said, and they are a top concern. The Pleasant View Nursing Home in Mount Airy has had 14 deaths from the virus. The teams will bring triage, emergency care, supplies and equipment to overburdened nursing homes, the governor said.

“The goal here is not to replace a nursing home’s medical and clinical team, but to provide immediate support and assistance to help protect residents of these facilities,” Hogan said at a news conference in Baltimore. “The state teams will provide assistance and care to patients immediately in order to slow the spread of this virus among our most vulnerable Marylanders.”

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The teams will include members of the National Guard, representatives of local and state health departments and hospital systems.

Hogan outlined three types of teams. Testing teams will identify those in close contact with a confirmed case and send out for the fastest test available. They also will provide instruction on how to keep confirmed and suspected cases of staff separated.

A second kind of team will be made up of members of the National Guard who will assess the situation on site and determine equipment and supply needs and triage residents, Hogan said.

A third type will be clinical teams made up of doctors, nurse practitioners and registered nurses from major hospital systems. They will provide on site medical triage and stabilize residents in the nursing home in order to avoid unnecessary transport to hospitals.

“These strike teams will be activated in response to requests from nursing homes, local health departments and Maryland Department of Health infectious disease experts,” Hogan said.

Hogan also said he has been urging the Trump administration and members of the president’s task force to make the region around the nation’s capital a priority, because the area is home to hundreds of thousands of federal workers. It also is home to critical national agencies battling the virus, such as the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration.

“I’m pleased to report that we have succeeded in convincing the Trump administration to designate the greater Baltimore-Washington corridor as a priority,” Hogan said.

As of Tuesday, Maryland had more than 4,370 confirmed cases and 103 deaths in the state.

There have been nearly 9,000 cases in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia, and 189 people have died in the National Capital Region in last 24 days, Hogan said.

Hogan also said he has directed the health department to immediately take action to provide further demographic information regarding race on all Maryland case data, including testing, hospitalizations and mortality rates.

The governor said he has directed the department to publish everything available with racial and ethnic demographic information.

“However, I want to caution that 90 percent of testing is being done by doctors and hospitals who are sending tests to private labs outside of the state which have not been keeping such data, and so we do anticipate having significant gaps in the initial data that will be available to us,” Hogan said.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

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