DENTON — Last week, Caroline County ranked second in the state with a 6.09% COVID-19 positivity rate, but this week that number has improved and is coming back down, Interim Health Officer Roger Harrell told Caroline County Commissioners Tuesday morning, Sept. 15.

The county’s current positivity test rate at 4.8% still exceeds the state average, but it is back under the 5% rate recommended by the World Health Organization.

The county has recently seen 99 new cases, Harrell said. The local health department continues to offer free, drive-thru screening for COVID-19 for Caroline residents from 3 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays in the parking lot at 403 S. 7th St., Denton.

Three Caroline Detention Center staff members and two inmates tested positive for COVID-19 a couple of weeks ago, but there have been zero new cases there, Harrell said.

“The Corrections staff have been doing a great job of disinfection and infection control, but we did some reeducation on PPE (personal protective equipment) use and other COVID-19 protocols,” Sara Visintainer, commissioners chief of staff, said after the meeting. “We have retested all staff and inmates three times to ensure there is no continuing spread. The most recent results have shown no positive tests.”

She said three people are being tested again because their most recent samples got damaged in transport to the lab.

The Maryland Department of Health took over the response at Caroline Nursing and Rehabilitation Center last week, so Harrell did not update the commissioners on that outbreak. When last reported by the county, 43 residents and 23 staff members had tested positive.

When asked for an update on the nursing home, MDH public information officer Charles L. Gischlar responded in an email Tuesday afternoon, “The Maryland Department of Health deployed personnel to the Caroline Nursing and Rehabilitation Center on Thursday, September 3, immediately after receiving reports of a high number of positive test results among facility residents and staff. Between September 3 and September 8, MDH teams assisted the facility with nursing, education, infection-control, and patient-safety issues. Following completion of the teams’ work, the MDH Office of Health Care Quality performed a review of the facility’s policies, procedures, and other program standards.

“The facility has been thoroughly trained on cohorting measures for lab-confirmed residents and infection control.”

Gischlar did not provide updated numbers.

Complaints continue to come in on the state’s COVID-19 tipline, Harrell said, and health department staff respond to the businesses to educate them.

“Education is working,” he said. Harrell said he was generally pleased with the local business community’s response to COVID-19 restrictions.

In Caroline, “most of the spread is coming from family gatherings, weddings …. It’s not coming out of our restaurant industry,” he said.

As of Tuesday, Caroline County reported 612 cases of COVID-19 with 295 recovered and three deaths.

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