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Coronavirus death toll at Maryland nursing home rises to 5

Mount Airy, Maryland — Five residents of a Maryland nursing home have died as a result of coronavirus, local officials announced Tuesday. All of the individuals who died were aged 60 or older, while at least two were described by officials as having underlying health conditions. 

A recent outbreak at Pleasant View Nursing Home in Mount Airy, Maryland — located about 40 miles outside the nation's capital — caused 77 of the facility's residents to test positive for coronavirus, pushing Maryland's total number of COVID-19 cases beyond 1,600, according to data released by the state.

Eighteen of the nursing home's 95 residents tested negative for the virus, according to officials. As of Tuesday, all resident tests have been reported.

"We never thought we would be in a position like this with an incident of this magnitude," said Steve Wantz,Carroll County Board of Commissioners president, on Sunday. "But trust me when I say, we're all in this." 

In response to the outbreak, the Maryland National Guard was dispatched to assist with triage and patient care.  

Carroll County Health Officer Ed Singer said test results confirmed two cases on March 27. But the number of confirmed cases ballooned in just one day, with an additional 64 cases confirmed on March 28. Some residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 remain asymptomatic, he added. 

Virus Outbreak Maryland
In the fog, Carroll County Health Department personnel place a "no trespassing" sign by the driveway of the Pleasant View Nursing Home, in Mount Airy, Maryland, on Sunday, March 29, 2020.  Jacquelyn Martin / AP

The initial batch of coronavirus tests were conducted last week at private labs. When signs indicated that the facility was susceptible to a larger outbreak, Singer said the subsequent tests were prioritized at state labs, with those results coming back in less than one day--much quicker than the roughly five days it took private companies to return results.

All residents of the 104-bed nursing home facility have been tested for the virus, but health officials are awaiting some results for a final tally of confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Prior to the outbreak, Pleasant View Nursing Home had implemented measures to prevent the virus' spread, including extra cleaning, restricted visitation and communal dining policies, suspended group activities, and daily checks of staff and residents for symptoms, according to a Carroll County Health Department statement. 

During a subsequent site visit, Singer confirmed that the facility "was doing mostly everything they were supposed to" in terms of following CDC-recommended guidelines to protect residents and staff. 

"We had a couple of minor suggestions," Signer added.

A few of those suggestions included increasing PPE, or personal protective equipment, for staff and requiring staff to wear full gown, face, and hand protection at all times.

Virus Outbreak Maryland
A section of the Pleasant View Nursing Home is seen through fog, in Mount Airy, Maryland, on Sunday, March 29, 2020. Jacquelyn Martin / AP

Carroll County Health Department has also been assisting the nursing home with completing administrative tasks and filling staffing vacancies caused by the recent outbreak. In the last few days, Singer told CBS News that the facility saw an increased rate of employees calling in sick. 

"I'm certain that people are afraid," Singer said. "Some people may have some type of mild symptoms or whatnot, that are not reporting to work for reasons that are truly legitimately medical. But they're probably also folks who are afraid and may not be reporting to work because they're self-reporting that they're sick, because they're afraid to be in the facility."

Wantz directly addressed that fear, and other circulating local concerns that the sudden uptick in positive coronavirus at the nursing home will quickly spread throughout the county home to roughly 167,000 people.

"All of us, as you can see by the partners I have here today, are doing every possible thing that they can to ensure that it stays on that facility, number one. And that everyone in this county remains protected in the most way they can," Wantz said.

But that protection, he added, is also dependent on the public's cooperation with federal and state guidelines, such as social distancing. 

Public health officials across the country have been closely monitoring outbreaks at nursing homes because they service a vulnerable population. The fatality rate for older and immunosuppressed individuals who contract COVID-19 remains much higher than for those who are young and healthy, CDC data shows.

The Life Care Center in Kirkland, Washington, experienced a similar outbreak of COVID-19 beginning in late February. In less than one month, officials confirmed 35 deaths were linked to the virus outbreak at the facility. 

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