May 27, 2020

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New Safety Measures for Nursing Homes, Religious Services

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The Maryland Department of Health website, as of 10 am Monday, April 6, reports the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Maryland had increased to 4,045. Reported cases in Southern Maryland: 41 in St. Mary’s County, 40 in Calvert County, and 129 in Charles County.

In the state, there were 3,609 positive cases reported April 5; 2,758 positive cases April 3, 2,331 positive cases April 2, and 1,985 positive cases April 1. The number of deaths statewide from the virus is 91.

Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about the Maryland stay-at-home order.

 

Nursing Home Facilities Required to Provide Personal Protective Equipment for Staff

Gov. Larry Hogan on Sunday enacted an emergency order to protect residents and staff at Maryland nursing home facilities, and bolster the state’s mitigation and suppression efforts amid outbreaks of COVID-19.

New directives require facilities to direct all staff who interact with residents to wear personal protective equipment, create separate observation and isolation areas for residents, and expedite all testing through the Maryland State Public Health Laboratory.

“As we have been saying for several weeks, older Marylanders and those with underlying health conditions are more vulnerable and at a significantly higher risk of contracting, getting more severely ill, and dying from this disease,” Gov. Hogan said. “Of major concern is that we currently have cases or clusters of cases at 81 nursing homes and long-term care facilities across the state. Our highest priority is keeping Marylanders safe, and we will use every tool at our disposal to protect the most vulnerable among us.”

On March 10, the Maryland Department of Health issued guidance to long-term and continuing care facilities to restrict visitation and begin implementing infection control protocols. The directives requires nursing home facilities to adjust and strengthen their policies, protocols, and procedures in line with all state and federal guidance related to COVID-19, and immediately adopt a series of enhanced protective measures:

PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT FOR STAFF. All personnel who are in close contact with residents of nursing homes shall wear personal protective equipment (PPE), including a face mask, appropriate eye protection, gloves, and gown. The PPE should be worn at all times while providing care to residents in the facility and personnel should follow CDC guidance for using personal protective equipment. Facilities must use the process established by MDH to request PPE from the state.

EXPEDITED TESTING FOR SYMPTOMATIC RESIDENTS. All facilities must use the most expeditious means available for testing. This includes using either a COVID-19 test kit provided by the state laboratory or another lab to send specimens to the state laboratory for expedited COVID-19 testing of residents and staff. Symptomatic residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities are among the patient groups prioritized by the state laboratory, alongside hospitalized patients and symptomatic health care providers and first responders.

SEPARATE OBSERVATION AREAS. All facilities must designate a unit of staff who are assigned to care for known or suspected COVID-19 residents; designate a room, unit, or floor of the nursing home as a separate observation area where newly admitted and readmitted residents are kept for 14 days on contact and droplet precautions while being observed every shift for signs and symptoms of COVID-19; and designate a room, unit, or floor of the nursing home to care for residents with known or suspected COVID-19.

PLACEMENT OF DISCHARGED PATIENTS. MDH’s Office of Health Care Quality will assist acute care hospitals, if necessary, in discharging patients who require nursing-home level care.  Facilities must cooperate with the Office of Health Care Quality and hospitals in the placement of discharged patients.

RIGHT OF RETURN FOR RESIDENTS. Nursing home residents admitted or seen at a hospital for COVID-19 must be allowed to return to the nursing home as long as the facility can follow the approved CDC recommendations for transmission-based precautions. If the residents must temporarily go to other facilities, every effort must be made by the receiving and original nursing homes to transfer the residents back to their original nursing homes as soon as possible.

 

Police Urge Voluntary Compliance of Faith Community

Maryland State Police Superintendent Col. Woodrow Jones III is urging the faith community to be informed and to comply with the order as it applies to holding services.

“Maryland’s law enforcement officers are dedicated to helping keep our citizens as safe as possible and are working diligently around the state to ensure the Governor’s Executive Order is complied with,” Col. Jones said. “My hope is that our faith community leaders recognize the importance of the safety measures that have been implemented and will not risk the health of their congregations by holding services in a way that violates the regulations put in place during this emergency. Technology provides us all with unique alternatives that I hope will be implemented as a necessary and important option until it is safe to once again gather to worship in the way you choose to.”

The executive order prohibits groups of more than 10 people from assembling and those groups of 10 or less must maintain social distancing of at least six feet between individuals. Churches, synagogues, and mosques have been included in the list of non-essential businesses that are required to close their normal operations.

Some minimal operations at a religious facility can continue:

Drive-In Religious Services: Churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, and other similar religious facilities of any faith (“religious facilities”) may conduct drive-in services, where participants gather in their vehicles near the religious facility and participate in the service together by remote means, subject to the following requirements, which are intended to protect public health, safety, and welfare:

Participants may leave their homes to travel by vehicle to and from the religious facility, and must remain in their vehicle at all times.

No vehicle may contain more than 10 persons.

Participants may not interact physically with clergy, staff, or participants in other vehicles. This includes, but is not limited to, collecting donations by basket or plate.

Limited In-Person Services: Clergy may conduct limited in-person services at their respective religious facilities, and participants may leave their homes to travel to and from the religious facility for such services, subject to the following requirements, which are intended to protect public health, safety, and welfare:

No more than 10 persons, including clergy, staff and participants, may be present inside the religious facility during the service.

Participants may not interact physically with clergy, staff, or participants. This includes, but is not limited to, collecting donations by basket or plate.

Participants, clergy, and staff must be at least six feet apart from one another at all times, except for participants that are part of the same household; and comply with all applicable guidance from the CDC and MDH regarding social distancing.

There must be at least a four hour gap between the end of one in-person service and the beginning of the next in-person service. The religious facility should be cleaned between services, in accordance with CDC cleaning and disinfection guidance.

Minimal Operations at Religious Facilities: Clergy and other staff of religious facilities are permitted to continue conducting minimal operations, provided that they comply with all applicable guidance from the CDC and MDH regarding social distancing. In the case of religious facilities, the term “minimal operations” includes, but is not necessarily limited to, facilitating remote services.

 

ICYMI:

APRIL 3 UPDATES

Food Programs Continue in St. Mary’s

St. Mary’s County Public Schools will provide a drive-up lunch service from April 6 through 17, 2020, Monday through Friday, at four locations from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm.

Please note there will be no school site meal distribution on the designated holidays of Friday, April 10, and Monday, April 13. Meals will be offered to all children 18 and younger free of charge. Parents and children can drive up to these locations and receive meals that they can take home during current school closures.

  • Leonardtown Elementary School at 22885 Duke St., Leonardtown
  • Greenview Knolls Elementary School at 45711 Military Lane, Great Mills
  • Margaret Brent Middle School at 29675 Point Lookout Road, Mechanicsville
  • Lexington Park Elementary School at 46763 Shangri-La Drive, Lexington Park

For questions regarding the lunch service program, email foodservices@smcps.org.

St. Mary’s Caring Soup Kitchen at 20850 Langley Road in Lexington Park is distributing take-and-go meals between 10:30 am and 1 pm Monday through Saturday. One meal per person.

The soup kitchen also has bagged lunch distribution sites on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, with a Pop-Up Pantry on Wednesdays between 11 am and 12:30 pm in the parking lot at the following locations:

  • Ridge – Dollar General at 13270 Point Lookout Road
  • Piney Point- Chief’s Restaurant at 44584 Tall Timbers Road
  • Charlotte Hall – April’s Pools on the corner of routes 5 and 6
  • Bushwood – Sacred Heart Catholic Church at 23080 Maddox Road

For more information on the St. Mary’s Caring program, call 301-863-5700.

Sheetz is proud to announce a new Kidz Meal Bagz program providing free food to help children and families in need as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Meal Bagz will be available all-day starting Thursday, April 2, and will include a turkey sandwich, chips and a drink.

Families interested in taking advantage of the free Kidz Meal Bagz program should go to participating Sheetz locations and ask an employee at the register for a meal. Families will be offered one bag per child and meals will be available daily while supplies last.

The Kidz Meal Bagz program will be available at 293 stores across Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. The program began April 2 and is scheduled for a period of two weeks at which time it will be reevaluated based on community need.

A list of participating Sheetz locations can be found here.

 

Survey for Local Health Care Workers – Workforce Reserve for COVID-19

In an effort to prepare the health care workforce and optimize resources at the local level for COVID-19 response, the St. Mary’s County Health Department is issuing a survey to health care workers in order to establish reserve capacity. This effort will help identify those workers who may be able to assist with the frontlines of this pandemic.

SMCHD asks any licensed or previously licensed health care worker who may be willing to volunteer or work above and beyond their current employment (whether you are unemployed, retired, or you are currently working and could possibly work additional hours) to complete the following survey as soon as possible.
www.surveymonkey.com/r/SMC-reserve

“The dedication of our local health care workforce to support and serve our community during this time of great need is exceptional,” said Dr. Meena Brewster, St. Mary’s County health officer. “We understand the stress and physical demands that are being placed on our health care system even as we prepare for a medical surge.”

Consider lending support for fellow frontline health care workers needing respite by helping to build local reserve capacity. The willingness of health care workers to serve the community in this crisis demonstrates their commitment to the health of residents and to one another.

If you have any questions about the survey, email smchd.healthprovider@maryland.gov or call 301-475-4330.

 

Coffee with the Sheriff Canceled

Due to the statewide closures of senior activity centers, the Coffee with the Sheriff event at the Loffler Senior Activity Center, scheduled for April 17, has been canceled.

Sheriff Tim Cameron and the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office are working with the Department of Aging & Human Services to record videos addressing scams in the community. Keep an eye on the department’s Facebook page (www.Facebook.com/SMCDAHS) and the St. Mary’s County YouTube channel for those videos.

Additional Coffee with the Sheriff events are scheduled for Friday, Aug. 14, at 9:30 am at the Northern Senior Activity Center and Friday, Nov. 14, at 9:30 am at the Garvey Senior Activity Center.

For more information, visit www.stmarysmd.com/aging, or call 301-475-4200, ext. 71050.

 

Tri-County Youth Services Has 24-Hr. Service Line

Tri-County Youth Services Bureau office is closed, but the school and office-based counselors continue to provide services to children, youth, and families, via telehealth portals, either through telephone or video conference. Counseling sessions are confidential, and the counselor is there to help maintain positive mental health during this time.

Those who would like more information, or if they would like to make a referral for services, contact TCYSB Monday through Friday from 9 am to 5 pm at 301-259-1076.

A 24-hour service line is 301-645-1837. That line is open seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

 

ICYMI

APRIL 2 UPDATES

Hogan Enacts Emergency Orders to Expand Telehealth, Upgrade Designation of Disabilities Services Personnel

Gov. Larry Hogan issued two emergency orders April 1 to further support Marylanders during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the expansion of telehealth services and the designation of disabilities services personnel as health care providers.

“As our state faces new and unprecedented challenges, we need to be adaptive, innovative, and inclusive in our response,” Gov. Hogan said. “The orders I have issued today help ensure that Marylanders of all ages and abilities can continue receiving essential services throughout this public health crisis.”

Earlier April 1, Maryland reported 1,985 confirmed cases of COVID-19—an increase of 325 new cases, which is the largest one-day increase to date. The Maryland Department of Health announced 13 additional deaths as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing the state’s total to 31 deaths. There are now more than 4,000 COVID-19 cases in the national capital region.

EXPANDING TELEHEALTH SERVICES IN MARYLAND. Gov. Hogan issued an executive order that amends the previous May 20 order regarding telehealth by expanding these services beyond audio-only methods. With this order, healthcare providers may engage in asynchronous telehealth services, such as email, provided that any and all telehealth practices are clinically appropriate, properly documented, and otherwise comply with proper standards of care. These telehealth services are also eligible for reimbursement by Medicaid. Read the amended executive order.

HEALTH CARE DESIGNATION FOR DISABILITIES SERVICE PERSONNEL. Gov. Hogan issued an executive order ensuring that workers who provide important support services to the disabled will be treated as health care providers under the recently-enacted Families First Coronavirus Response Act. This order officially recognizes the essential function of services for the disabled—including in-home care, interpreting services, social services, and support systems for substance abuse and mental illness—and designates those who provide these services as essential health care providers.

 

ICYMI

APRIL 1 UPDATES

Health Department: Community Spread Confirmed

The St. Mary’s County Health Department has confirmed additional positive cases of the novel coronavirus in county residents, bringing the total case count to 23. Additionally, there is now strong evidence of community spread of COVID-19 in St. Mary’s County. Community spread is the passage of illness from person to person without known risks, such as travel or contact with a confirmed case.

For local COVID-19 case count, updates, and information, go to www.smchd.org/coronavirus or call the COVID-19 hotline at 301-475-4911 Monday through Saturday from 8 am to 5 pm.

 

Maryland Authorizes Remote Notarizations

Gov. Larry Hogan issued an emergency order that temporarily waives the in-person requirement for notarizing documents in Maryland for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, subject to guidance provided by Secretary of State John C. Wobensmith.

Notaries Public commissioned in Maryland who are in good standing may perform a notarial act using communication technology for a remotely located (remote online notarizations) after affirming they are complying with the requirements and submit the attached Remote Notary Notification Form and emailing it to the Office of the Secretary of State at remotenotary.sos@maryland.gov.

Notaries Public who use remote notarizations must adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Must be a current notary in good standing
  • Must notify the Office of the Secretary of State of intent to use remote notarizations
  • Must identify the communications technology vendor that will be used and confirm that the vendor will allow notary to, in real time, (1) view the remotely located individual and (2) compare for consistency the information and photos presented as identification credentials
  • For each notarial act conducted remotely, must create and retain an audio-visual recording of the performance of the notarial act
  • For each notarial act conducted remotely, must note on the notarial certification and in notary log or journal that the notarial act was performed for a remotely located individual using communications technology
  • May not charge more than $4 for each remote online notarial act using communication technology, which is the same fee that may be charged when performing an in person notarial act

Additional guidance can be found at https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2020/03/notaries-precautions-coronavirus.

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