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Atlantic General Hospital’s walk-in clinic on 10th Street in Ocean City has been repurposed as Worcester County’s main coronavirus testing site.

(March 27, 2020) As of Thursday morning, Maryland had confirmed 580 confirmed cases of COVID-19, or coronavirus.

Most of the cases are occurring in metro and suburban counties, with 164 of them in Montgomery County, 101 in Prince George’s, 81 in Baltimore County, 72 in Baltimore City,  49 in Howard, 41 in Anne Arundel, 14 in Frederick, 10 in Charles,  nine in Harford, seven in Calvert, seven in Carroll,  five in Wicomico, four in Cecil, four in St. Mary’s, three in Garrett,  two in Washington and two in Worcester. 

Caroline, Kent, Queen Anne’s, Somerset and Talbot Counties each have one case. 

According to the Worcester County Health Department, the first local case is a man in his 30s who is recovering at home. He was a close contact of a confirmed case in Wicomico County. 

The second case is a woman in her 20s who is a household contact of the first case. 

Symptoms of coronavirus are fever, coughing, shortness of breath and, in more serious cases, pneumonia. It is spread through respiratory droplets, personal contact or surface contact with the virus on it.

Atlantic General Hospital personnel said people who are experiencing these symptoms or have come into contact with a confirmed case should call their medical providers so they can prepare with the proper protective gear. Do not show up unannounced to a medical facility. 

Michael Franklin, CEO of Atlantic General, said that the number one prevention strategy is to avoid congregating. He said social media helps, especially since the hospital is no longer allowing visitors for inpatients. 

“Virtual visits are a great way to stay in touch for people that do have to be in the hospital,” Franklin said. “We’re making devices available in the hospital so people can have virtual visits.”

He added that the hospital has the equipment for the current demand, but is preparing for that to increase by moving around or suspending certain services. 

“We’re not doing walk-in laboratory tests, for instance, for people, so the space we’re using for the out-patient laboratory services, we are preparing to re-purpose to be able to expand the emergency department if we’re overwhelmed and need to expand the emergency department,” Franklin said. 

The hospital has also cut back on nonessential surgeries and has moved outpatient infusion to the regional cancer care center. Franklin said certain vital services such as diabetes testing will continue, but some other services may be completed through telehealth capabilities. 

To streamline tests, Atlantic General converted the 10th Street Atlantic Immediate Care to serve as the primary coronavirus testing site. According to Franklin, 48 tests have been conducted at that site since it started last Friday. 

The biggest challenge now is the turn-around time, since there is a large volume of tests going into a limited number of labs. 

 “It’s creating a choke point for us,” Franklin said. “It’s taking days to get these tests turned around.” 

Toni Keiser, vice president for public relations at Atlantic General, said the hospital has been working with the Worcester County Health Department on the testing site. 

“They were intimate in helping us set up that process, so if you call the health department asking where to go for screening, they will prescreen and then assist in making you an appointment to go to that site,” Keiser said. 

As for respirators, Franklin said that they have secured additional equipment through the nursing and rehabilitation center in Berlin and are renting more through vendors. Hospital staff are also receiving more personal protection equipment, such as gloves, masks and gowns, from different vendors such as food processors and hardware stores. 

“When you have a different vendor, things are sized a little bit differently and maybe shaped a little differently,” Franklin said. “We have to go back and make sure everybody is well-versed on that particular brand of equipment.” 

Staff members are also self-screening for symptoms and have increased the air flow in the hospital. “We’ve got all fresh air flow coming into the hospital, so it changes the air out quickly, which prevents any airborne problems throughout the hospital,” Franklin said. “We’ve done the same to our facility out on 10th Street.” 

Franklin and Keiser’s message to Worcester residents is to stay home and stay calm. “We’re making sure that everybody is communicating well,” Franklin said. “Right now, we have the space and the people to make sure that we’re meeting the demands for the community.” 

They advised calling 211 for mental health services. 

The Worcester County Health Department has opened a hotline Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to determine if a person should be tested. Call 410-632-1100 and select option eight. 

For general information on the coronavirus call the health department 24/7 at 410-632-4321 or visit worcesterhealth.org. View updates from Atlantic General at atlanticgeneral.org/patients-visitors/covid-19-updates/

To track Maryland cases, visit coronavirus.maryland.gov/

Elizabeth covers Worcester County issues for Ocean City Today. In 2018, she graduated from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa with a bachelor of arts. After graduation, Elizabeth spent a year with Lutheran Volunteer Corps in Wilmington, Delaware.

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