EASTON — More than 20 Talbot County residents became infected with the coronavirus during the past week and an eighth resident is confirmed to have died of the associated respiratory illness, according to county health data.
The county's most recent victim of the deadly virus was a nursing home resident, Talbot Health Officer Dr. Fredia Wadley confirmed Wednesday, Sept. 9. Wadley did not disclose additional information about the person.
One Easton nursing home and a nursing home-assisted living facility are now battling COVID-19 outbreaks. Peak Healthcare at The Pines is experiencing an ongoing outbreak, and most recently, infections were reported among staff and residents of Bayleigh Chase, which has multiple live-in operations in the same complex in Easton.
Data from the Maryland Department of Health show five Bayleigh Chase staff members and one resident contracted the virus between its nursing home and assisted living facility. At The Pines, 13 staff members and 12 residents have been infected, and five residents have died, MDH recorded.
When The Star Democrat reported an outbreak at The Pines in mid-August, Jake Lighten, president of Peak Healthcare which operates the nursing home, said he believed the outbreak there was under control. Since then, two more residents have died and several more residents and employees have become infected, according to state data.
As of Sept. 9, Talbot tallied 500 confirmed coronavirus cases since the pandemic's onset in March. Of the 500 residents who are confirmed to have contracted the virus, 468 people have recovered, 51 have required hospitalization and 24 are actively infected, county data show.
Easton residents have accounted for 397 infections; Trappe, 29; St. Michaels, 21; Cordova, 19; and Oxford, 10, according to MDH ZIP code data. The remaining cases’ locations are unknown because the state does not disclose virus data for ZIP codes reporting fewer than seven confirmed cases.
As for the ages of infected individuals in the county, a majority of infections during the month of August were reported among residents between the ages of 21 and 30, the county health department said.
Sixteen Talbot residents aged 21 to 30 are confirmed to have contracted the virus last month, while five residents younger than 5 were infected; four between the ages of 6 and 10; seven between age 11 and 15; 10 between 16 and 20; 11 between 31 and 40; 10 between 41 and 50; 12 between 51 and 60; four between 61 and 70; and eight people 71 years or older.
Shore Regional Health CEO Ken Kozel, during a meeting with county lawmakers Tuesday, Sept. 8, said the hospital at Easton saw 20 to 25 COVID-19 patients each day during what data show was the pandemic's peak in the Mid-Shore region. Now, the hospital is treating eight to 10 infected patients daily, Kozel said.
The hospital's eight to 10 daily patients, Kozel said, typically remain hospitalized between five and eight days, and among the patients, co-morbidities and old age are usually factors that contribute to those individuals' need for hospitalization.
The Easton hospital primarily treats patients from across the Mid-Shore's five counties — Queen Anne's, Talbot, Kent, Dorchester and Caroline — but also treats patients from other parts of Maryland.
Kozel said at the beginning of the pandemic the hospital was scrambling to increase its surge capacity in the "worst case scenario" that the facility became packed with COVID-19 patients. As a result, SRH at Easton more than doubled its in-patient capacity from 125 patients to 282, and tripled its intensive care capacity from 22 beds to 88.
The hospital never filled up, he said, adding, "That's nothing any of us wants to experience, but it's something we had to prepare for."
Kozel credited local leadership — namely Wadley, County Emergency Services Director Clay Stamp and the Talbot County Council — for keeping the county's hospitalizations low relative to other counties through messaging and establishing and enforcing pandemic-fueled regulations.
The CEO said the Easton hospital has been "fortunate" to have seen "very few patients" requiring ventilators and intensive care. It's "really impressive when you hear what’s going on" in other areas across Maryland and the country, he said.
The facility, per Gov. Larry Hogan's reopening guidance, is now almost fully operational, with elective procedures and diagnostic testing now resumed. Kozel said the hospital remains in good shape with its personal protective equipment supply, staffing, patient capacity and testing materials to withstand the duration of the lingering pandemic.
Those who wish to get tested for the coronavirus can do so through University of Maryland SRH for free at Chesapeake College’s campus in Wye Mills. The campus test site, which opened on Aug. 1, mainly serves residents of the Mid-Shore.
Appointments for testing are required and are offered between 8:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays, based on availability. Turnaround time for test results at the Wye Mills site ranges from 48 to 72 hours, according to site operators.
Testing appointments can be scheduled by visiting https://www.umms.org/shore/coronavirus/testing-locations and following the link to “Schedule a free COVID test online.”
After getting tested, individuals can sign up for electronic access to their results through UM SRH’s MyPortfolio online health information system. A nurse also will call those who were tested there with their test results if they do not view their results online, the regional health system has said.
The Easton High School test site, operated by the county health department, also is operational and is open from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Testing at the EHS site is by appointment only and exclusive to Talbot County residents.
To schedule an appointment to get tested for the virus there, call 410-819-5632. No doctor’s referral is required, and the cost will be covered for those who do not have health insurance.