(Nov. 20, 2020) It’s here — the second wave of the novel coronavirus is spreading rapidly across the nation, and neither Maryland nor Worcester County has been spared.
To fight the surge in this state, Gov. Larry Hogan announced on Tuesday new dining and capacity restrictions.
“I’ve always been a straight shooter, so I’ll give it to you straight,” Hogan said. “The sad reality is that all across America more people are getting infected with covid-19, more are being hospitalized, more are going into intensive care and more people are dying.”
Effective at 5 p.m. this Friday, all dine-in services at restaurants, bars and other food and alcohol establishments must close from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., and a new 50 percent capacity rule will take place.
Carryout and delivery services may continue beyond those hours.
Hogan also reiterated that bar and restaurant patrons must be seated at all times — a directive he issued back in May.
Entities affected by the 50 percent capacity rule are retail stores, religious institutions, bingo halls, bowling alleys, pool halls, skating rinks, fitness centers and social clubs.
The capacity rule brings these facilities in-line with indoor dining and personal service business restrictions.
Recent data shows alarming growth in all areas of covid-19-related metrics.
There have been more than 1,000 new cases of covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, for 13 consecutive days.
Last Saturday, the state saw the largest new daily case rate since the pandemic began, with 2,321 new cases, Hogan said. As of Thursday, that record has been eclipsed, as there were 2,910 new cases.
The statewide, seven-day positivity rate, the number of positive test results, climbed to 6.8 percent, which is the eighth straight day it was over 5 percent.
Twenty out of 24 jurisdictions in the state are above the 5 percent benchmark.
Average daily case rates have climbed to 29 per 100,000 people statewide, which is a 46 percent increase in one week, and each jurisdiction is now seeing new daily case rates above 10 — 18 jurisdictions have reached case rates above 20 per day.
Thirty-four Marylanders died this week, and 4,220 have died since the spring.
Hogan took a jab at conspiracy theorists and virus naysayers who claim the virus is a hoax or similar to the common flu.
“We’ve lost more Marylanders to covid-19 than we lose each year to car accidents, gun violence and the flu combined,” Hogan said.
Nationally, more than 247,000 Americans have died, which is greater than American lives lost during the Korean, Vietnam and Gulf wars combined.
For the first time since June 7, hospitalizations in Maryland have surpassed 1,000, and are up 100 percent since Nov. 1.
Intensive care unit stays are up to 260, as of Thursday morning, the most since June 19.
“Even with the additional 6,000 beds that we provided for in our hospital surge plan, Maryland hospitals are now reaching capacity,” Hogan said.
Of particular concern was western Maryland, Hogan said, adding that 19 hospitals in the state were already at 90 percent capacity.
“Today the Maryland Department of Health is issuing an order which will restrict hospital visitations statewide until further notice, with the exceptions of end-of-life care, parents or guardians of minors, obstetrics and support for patients with disabilities,” Hogan said.
Hospitals and medical facilities are encouraged to avoid elective, non-urgent or life-saving procedures.
Furthermore, hospitals reaching capacity may transfer patients to hospitals with more space and available equipment.
Nursing home facility visitations also have been limited to compassionate care visits, and all visitors must provide proof of a negative covid-19 test result within 72-hours prior to their visit.
All nursing home staff must get tested twice weekly, and all residents once a week.
On Monday, Maryland courts returned to phase three of the state judiciary’s reopening plan.
Under phase three, all criminal and civil trials, save for grand juries already in session, will be suspended until at least Jan. 1, 2021.
Active jurors must contact the court.
All court of appeals and court of special appeals matters remain operational.
District and circuit court operations have been limited, but clerk’s offices will remain open to the public.
Circuit courts will be allowed to continue civil cases such as settlement hearings, attorney disciplinary hearings and motions requiring witness testimony. As for criminal cases, courts would be limited to motions, expungements, violations of probation, non-jury trials and sentencings previously deferred.
District courts are allowed to continue some criminal and traffic cases, as well as some civil actions and landlord/tenant cases in limited capacity.
Masks are required at all times in courthouses for all above the age of 2, and all visitors must have their temperature taken and fill out a health screening.
For more information visit https://www.mdcourts.gov/coronavirusphasedreopening .
Perhaps in preparation for surging metrics, Hogan announced last Thursday an additional $70 million of federal CARES Act relief aid.
Twenty-million dollars will help ramp up the state’s 90-day supply of personal protective equipment; $15 million to the Maryland Department of Labor for staffing; $10 million for rental housing assistance; $10 million for vaccine research; $10 million for food banks; $2 million for foster care providers; $2 million to the Department of Human Services; and $1 million to fund a wastewater sampling program that will aid in covid-19 detection.
Medical experts and scientists have warned of a bitter fall and winter for months, but patchwork nationwide protocol and open defiance to health guidelines have caused those grim projections to become a reality.
“We have seen widespread failures to follow orders and public health advisories statewide, and again we are calling on the counties to implement strict enforcement of all existing and new orders and directives to ensure closures are not required,” Hogan said.
He urged the public to wear masks, to limit holiday gatherings, and urged college students and out of state travelers to get tested.
Hospitalizations and intensive care unit numbers as of midweek were at 1,192 and 260, respectively, both the highest since June.
As of Thursday, Maryland’s seven-day positivity rate was at 7.49 percent — almost a whole point above yesterday’s 6.82 percent and two points above last week’s 5.6 percent.
Worcester County’s positivity rate was 6.13 percent as of Wednesday, an almost two-point increase from last week’s 4.37 percent.
Since last Friday, at least 74 new cases have been confirmed in the county, according to the Worcester County Health Department. Last week, 53 new cases were confirmed.
This brings the county’s total cases since March to 1,385 as of Thursday.
Thirty-three coronavirus-related deaths have been reported in Worcester, with 18 of them at the Berlin Nursing Home.
As of Thursday, the state had 174,733 cases. In this area, 502 cases have now been reported in the Berlin and Ocean Pines 21811 zip code area, 406 cases were listed for the Ocean City 21842 zip code, 132 in the Snow Hill 21863 zip code and 233 in the Pocomoke City 21851 zip code.
A zip code must have at least eight cases to be listed.
A total of 1,199 people have been released from public monitoring. Worcester has conducted 32,852 coronavirus tests as of Thursday.
As of Wednesday afternoon, two patients with coronavirus were in Atlantic General Hospital – one in the medical/surgical unit and one in the intensive care unit, according to Sarah Yonker, director of marketing at the hospital.
Hospital staff has cared for six patients who have come off a ventilator. Atlantic General has discharged 71 patients with coronavirus who are recovering.
As of Thursday, next-door Wicomico had 3,033 cases, and Sussex County in Delaware has 9,257 cases as of Wednesday.
The Worcester County Health Department will host drive-thru covid-19 testing on Friday from 12:30-3:30 p.m., at the Worcester County Commission on Aging Facility located on 4764 Snow Hill Road.
From then on, additional testing will take place every Monday at the same time and location.
All Worcester County residents and employees 8 years and older who are experiencing covid-19 symptoms are eligible for testing.
Health department designated close contact of a known positive covid-19 case are eligible, as well.
People who suspect they may have the virus should call their primary care providers or the health department.
The Worcester County Health Department has a hotline Monday through Friday from 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/.
To report a restaurant or bar for not following safety guidelines, call the county environmental health department at 410-352-3234.
To donate plasma, go to delmarvablood.org/cpdonor or call 1-888-825-6638.