Montgomery County officials hope to expand help for groups hit hardest by COVID-19


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MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MD. (WDVM) — Montgomery County now has 5,790 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among its residents, according to recent data from the Maryland Department of Health. Officials say the numbers are shocking, but there’s reason to stay optimistic.

Some groups have been hit harder by the virus than others, including nursing home residents and staff, who account for 26 percent of total cases and 71 percent of COVID-related deaths in Montgomery County. The county’s 1,500 cases in nursing homes and long term care facilities greatly outnumber other Maryland jurisdictions.

“We do have a high number of nursing homes and long term care facilities compared to some other jurisdictions. Given the volume of facilities, there could have potentially been a number of staff who worked in multiple facilities and came into contact with different patient groups,” said Dr. Travis Gayles, the county’s chief health officer.

Dr. Gayles says many of those cases in nursing homes and long-term care facilities can most likely be attributed to asymptomatic transmission of the virus early on, before stricter precautions went into place. He says a lot of those cases popped up in late March and early April.

The county’s Rapid Response Teams and the state’s Ready Responder Teams are working in nursing homes and in high volume ZIP codes.

The county says it’s strategizing to protect other vulnerable populations by expanding access to testing, particularly in transmission hot spots across the county.

Some of those response teams have gone to homes of families not otherwise able to easily access testing in their communities.

A particular area the county is going to focus on is a cluster of ZIP codes in Silver Spring with high numbers of cases. 20902, 20904 and 20906 have over 1,500 cases combined.

  • 20902: 511 cases
  • 20906: 597 cases
  • 20904: 479 cases

“We’re working to set up a mobile testing arm that will be able to respond to hot spots within the community. We’ll be able to do pop up testing at different sites,” Dr. Gayles said.

County Executive Marc Elrich says more companies have stepped up in the last few weeks, saying they will be able to perform more tests than before. He hopes to expand testing capacity in the near future.

“That supply is beginning to emerge. We are in the process of being able to develop greater supplies for the county that are going to enable Dr. Gayles to do the things he’s talking about and more,” Elrich said.

During a virtual press briefing Wednesday, both the county executive and Dr. Gayles said they were optimistic.

Dr. Gayles said hospitalization rates are decreasing and a lower percentage of tests are coming back positive.


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