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Governor Orders 'Universal Testing' At Nursing Homes


Gov. Larry Hogan has ordered universal testing of staff and residents at nursing homes across the state. The move follows the revelation this week that nearly half of all COVID-19 deaths in Maryland were patients at nursing homes.


Some nursing homes have seen upwards of 100 confirmed cases. One in Northwest Baltimore has had 220 cases and 10 deaths, according to data from the Maryland Department of Health.


“Targeting and containing these outbreaks and clusters is critically important to our state's recovery efforts,” Hogan said at a press conference Wednesday.


Hogan signed an executive order requiring nursing homes and long-term care facilities to step up their efforts to mitigate outbreaks.

The order requires “universal testing” of all residents and staff, regardless of whether they have symptoms of the virus. Hogan said the state will prioritize for testing those nursing homes where the threat of an outbreak is imminent.


All residents are required to be evaluated at least once a day for signs of the virus by a doctor, nurse practitioner, physician’s assistant or registered nurse.


All nursing homes are required to develop plans for “emergency surge staffing” in case there is an outbreak.


Earlier this month, Hogan announced the creation of what he called “strike teams” to identify people who have the virus; triage residents and determine what supplies a nursing home needs; and provide on-site medical care to keep residents out of hospitals. 


On Wednesday, Hogan announced a new addition to these strike teams, which he has named “bridge teams.” These teams, comprising a registered nurse and five to seven aides, will provide additional emergency staff to facilities experiencing an outbreak. 


The executive order also mandates compliance with the strike teams, which Hogan said has been somewhat of a problem.


“We are increasingly concerned and quite frankly outraged that a few operators are not complying with directives from the state,” Hogan said.


To ensure compliance, Hogan appointed Col. Eric Allely, now the state surgeon of the Maryland National Guard, to serve as a compliance officer.


Disobeying the governor’s executive order is a misdemeanor, and it can carry a sentence of up to a year in jail, a fine of up to $5,000, or both. 

Rachel Baye is a senior reporter and editor in WYPR's newsroom.
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