EASTON — Talbot County has seven confirmed COVID-19 cases, and officials have reported the county’s first fatality, bringing the number of deaths in Maryland to 53.
“This is very significant for our community,” Talbot County Health Officer Dr. Fredia Wadley said in press release issued at noon Saturday, April 4, from the Talbot County Emergency Management and Health departments.
“This individual was in her 40s with significant co-morbidities,” Wadley said. “Fortunately, the deceased had no contact with her co-workers prior to her symptomatic period because of her chronic conditions, and her family members have been isolated since the hospitalization and are being monitored for symptoms.”
“We are all saddened to hear this news, and our prayers go out to this person’s family and friends,” Talbot County Council President Corey Pack said in the release. “I call on the people of Talbot County to continue to support one another during this difficult time.”
Although Talbot County officials did not release the name of the woman who died, her family and friends announced her death on Facebook.
Her brother Bryon Leach posted a Facebook message about his sister’s death, writing “Tammy Rishel-Lopez, I love you and miss you so much.”
A commenter on his post, Mary Melissa Carder, wrote: “Prayers for all of you in this so very difficult time. I will miss her positive spin on everything. I will miss her humor. I’m not sure she even knew how much she helped me. I’m so very sorry.”
Joseph Miles, another commenter on Leach’s post, offered his condolences.
“I’m saddened to hear this news Tammy Rishel-Lopez you had a heart like no other,” Miles wrote. “You had a huge influence in so many people’s lives. I sit here not knowing what to say after hearing this. Bryon Leach my heart and prayers go out to you and your family. Tammy will be truly missed. May you be at peace.”
Rishel-Lopez was the mother of three children, Tav, Alicia and Jessica. A graduate of Easton High School, she was a beloved member of the local community, reaching out to others in their times of need.
In a post to Facebook on March 16, Rishel-Lopez offered to pick up needed items for sick and elderly members of the community.
“I have to go to Easton today to run some errands,” she wrote. “If anyone needs any food or Medicine or pet supplies picked up and delivered anywhere around St Michael’s, Wittman, Bozman. Royal Oak, or any where nearby that I haven’t mentioned please message me and I will be happy to pick up and deliver to you for free. Just want to be a good neighbor and help where I can.”
As of Saturday afternoon, Maryland had reported 367 new cases of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours, for a total of 3,125 cases across the state. According to the press release, the Talbot County individual who died was hospitalized with COVID-19 symptoms and was one of the 157 new hospitalizations in the past 24 hours. The cumulative total for hospitalizations in Maryland stands at 821.
“This death is consistent with what we know about this disease,” Wadley said. “We have warned that people over 65 years of age and younger persons with chronic conditions are at a higher risk of a severe infection and death with COVID 19 infections.
“COVID-19 cases are increasing across the Eastern Shore. This region was holding steady at 2%, but we now have 3% of the cases in Maryland. This represents transmission of the virus in the community and further indicates that social distancing is critical for protecting ourselves, our families, and our community.”
The Centers for Disease Control are now advising that everyone wear a cloth mask when they go outside their homes. This is to protect others if the wearer is infected but asymptomatic. Masks help catch moisture and viruses as we breathe out and helps protect the people in close contact with the wearer. As scientists have learned more about this novel virus, one important fact is that people asymptomatic can sometimes spread the virus.
“At this time we do not have enough surgical masks for our frontline healthcare workers to make these available to the public,” Wadley said. “Several people including a quilters club in the area have been making cloth masks. These are great for the public to use, but they should be washed every day. If you don’t have one of the homemade masks, you can use a handkerchief over your nose and mouth. This works too, but again, they must be washed every day.”
The number of cases in Maryland is expected to peak in the next two to three weeks.
“As the cases rise, our health department infection control nurses get more calls each day with questions about COVID-19,” Wadley said. “I urge Talbot County residents to go to our website talbotcovid19.org for daily updates of the number of cases and other important information.”
“I also urge all residents to stay at home as much as possible, practice social distancing and wash their hands frequently,” she said. “These are the things you can do to protect yourself. Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health is recognized as the voice of reason for this pandemic, and he says he washes his hands or uses sanitizers as many as 50 times a day. If he believes handwashing is that important for his protection, I am convinced it is important for me to do likewise.”