Guidance on protecting employees and residents of nursing homes in Maryland from COVID-19 is now mandatory under an executive order issued by Gov. Larry Hogan.
“As we have been saying for several weeks, older Marylanders and those with underlying health conditions are more vulnerable and at a significantly higher risk of contracting, getting more severely ill, and dying from this disease,” Hogan said in a statement issued Sunday. “Of major concern is that we currently have cases or clusters of cases at 81 nursing homes and long-term care facilities across the state. Our highest priority is keeping Marylanders safe, and we will use every tool at our disposal to protect the most vulnerable among us.”
Under the order, all nursing homes must:
- Provide personal protective equipment for staff including face masks, eye protection, gloves and gowns. Staff are required to wear such equipment whenever they provide direct care to patients. Facilities my use a process established by the Maryland Department of Health for requesting protective equipment from the state.
- All facilities must expedite testing of staff and patients suspected of being infected and use a state lab for processing of those tests.
- Facilities must designate separate staff to care for patients infected with COVID-19. Newly admitted or re-admitted residents must be kept in a separate unit for 14 days. A separate floor or room must be designated for the care of patients infected with the virus.
- Facilities will be required to cooperate with the state in the placement of patients discharged from hospitals who require nursing-home level care.
- Nursing home residents admitted for or seen at a hospital for COVID-19 must be allowed to return to that facility as long as the facility can follow approved CDC recommendations. For residents who must go to another facility, the original home must make every effort to t bring that patient back as soon as possible.
The guidelines, which are now mandatory under Hogan’s order, were issued Friday by the Maryland Department of Health.
Anyone who knowingly violates the order is subject to penalties of one year in jail, a $5,000 fine or both.
More than five dozen nursing homes in the state have reported cases in Maryland.
Currently, 46 homes in Maryland have reported between one and four cases of the virus. Another 12 facilities report between seven and 10 cases. Pleasant View Nursing Home in Mt. Airy has the largest outbreak, with 77 patients and staff members having been infected. Six patients at the Mt. Airey facility have died as of Sunday.
As of Sunday morning, there are 3,609 confirmed cases of the virus in the state including cases in all 24 major subdivisions, an increase of 484 cases in a 24 hour period. There have been 24,728 negative tests. Sixty-seven patients have died and another 159 have been released from isolation.
Maryland has been under a state of emergency since March 5 when the first three cases were reported.