Maryland relaxes nursing home visitations as state records no virus deaths for first time since March
In a news conference Thursday, Hogan said the state will commit an additional $6 million to help nursing homes and assisted-living facilities pay for staff testing after some said they coudn’t afford the costs. He also said health officials are launching new guidelines to expand the use of rapid antigen tests, which could be used to screen visitors.
Maryland has recorded 2,155 deaths in nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and group homes since the pandemic began, comprising more than half the state’s coronavirus fatalities. Those facilities have accounted for 15,798 reported cases in the state.
In Virginia and the District, indoor visits remain limited to situations in which a facility resident is close to death. Outdoor visits with masks and social distancing are allowed.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which regulates nursing homes nationwide, issued guidance in mid-September encouraging facilities to welcome visitors, including indoors, if they have not had a new infection in 14 days.
Also on Thursday, Maryland Schools Superintendent Karen Salmon announced child care providers will be able to care for the number of children for which they are licensed.
“We have heard very clearly from many parents and providers who have written and called me, that we return to licensed capacity to meet the needs of working families and prevent the closure of child care centers once it could be done safely,” Salmon said.
She said health officials did not see adverse effects when child care programs increased capacity from 10 to 15 individuals per room. Under the new change, child care centers can serve up to 20 3- and 4-year-olds in a room and up to 30 school-age children.
The relaxed guidelines in Maryland come on the same day the state recorded its first 24-hour period since March 28 without a virus-related fatality. The rolling seven-day average of deaths has mostly held steady since mid-July, with the state this week averaging about six fatalities daily.
Hogan (R) said the drop was a positive step in the state’s battle against the pandemic, but he urged Maryland residents to remain vigilant and to continue taking health precautions.
“This encouraging milestone is a tribute to the incredibly heroic efforts of our doctors, nurses and health care workers on the front lines, and the courage and perseverance Marylanders have demonstrated in response to this unprecedented challenge,” he said in a statement.
Other virus-related metrics in Maryland on Thursday painted a mixed picture.
The state reported 785 new coronavirus cases — the highest in a single day since Sept. 12. The daily total was well above Maryland’s seven-day rolling average of new cases, which stood Thursday at 530.
It’s the sixth consecutive day that Maryland’s average number of cases has risen after dropping to 461 daily cases about a week ago. Meanwhile, the state’s coronavirus test positivity rate stands at 2.88 percent, which is a slight increase when compared with earlier in the week.
The District, Maryland and Virginia on Thursday reported 1,267 new infections and 21 additional fatalities. Virginia had 450 new cases and 20 deaths, while the District had 32 new cases and one death. Both jurisdictions have seen a slight decline in caseloads in recent days.
The seven-day average of new cases in the District, Maryland and Virginia stands at 1,313, down from more than 2,000 about two months ago. Health experts have cautioned that numbers could rise as chillier weather causes outdoor activities to shift indoors.
As economic fallout from the pandemic continued, Labor Department numbers released Thursday showed 21,456 people in Maryland, Virginia and the District filed for unemployment benefits last week, up from 17,792 a week earlier. More than 1.5 million residents in the Washington region have sought jobless benefits since the start of the pandemic.