EASTON — Talbot County reported its fourth pandemic-related death in just over a week on Friday, increasing the county's COVID-19 death toll to 13 amid the ongoing post-holiday surge in infections.
Three of the four people who died in the past week were nursing home residents, according to Acting County Health Officer Dr. Maria Maguire. Maguire did not immediately respond Friday to questions about the fourth individual.
Talbot County currently has COVID-19 outbreaks in two of its nursing homes and one assisted living facility, according to Maryland Department of Health data updated on Jan. 6.
The facilities reporting cases of the virus are Bayleigh Chase Assisted Living Facility, Bayleigh Chase Nursing Home and Peak Healthcare at The Pines, state data show.
The number of cases is unclear based on discrepancies between the state's and the facilities' reporting, but the state reports there are 48 virus cases among staff and residents at Bayleigh Chase Assisted Living Facility, five cases at Bayleigh Chase Nursing Home and 34 cases at Peak Healthcare at The Pines nursing home.
Maguire told The Star Democrat her department is in close communication with all of the county’s congregate living facilities, and “as as soon as there’s an outbreak, a whole team of people steps in to look at various procedures.”
“We have epidemiologists from the state involved any time there’s an outbreak in a high-risk facility,” she said. “I’m confident the situation will improve and, especially now that most of the nursing home residents in the county have been vaccinated, we’ll see an improvement there.”
Maguire said many of the county's nursing home residents have been vaccinated against COVID-19. She did not say specifically how many or what percentage have been vaccinated, as those vaccinations are facilitated by individual facilities and not the local health department.
She said it's "hard to say" whether the outbreaks are under control now because "nursing homes test twice a week, so you can get a false sense of security when you get negative tests back and then, boom, some positive ones.”
Now that the holidays have passed, Maguire said, she's hoping the county's infection rates will go down as social gatherings become fewer. But she warned January is going to be "a really difficult month in terms of cases" in the county.
Maguire is urging residents to "continue following all of the guidelines we’ve talked about: wearing masks outside your household, limiting gatherings, and distancing from others."
"If people did congregate over the holidays, it is a good idea for them to be even more careful and stay at home as much as possible," she said.
As of Friday, Talbot County reported 1,505 confirmed COVID-19 cases locally since March, and 228 active infections. Thirteen residents have died to date and 90 have been hospitalized after contracting the virus.
The county reported an averaged daily new case rate of 82.2 on Wednesday — Talbot’s highest-recorded case rate during the pandemic’s entirety.