Dr. Meena Brewster

Dr. Meena Brewster, health officer for St. Mary’s County.

St. Mary’s went over 1,000 cumulative COVID-19 cases this weekend, causing the county health officer to tell residents to continue being vigilant against the virus, which she said is now spreading at a faster rate.

As of Tuesday, St. Mary’s had 1,023 COVID-19 cases as well as 52 deaths counted within the county. Only one of those deaths occurred after late June.

Although some students will soon be moving into St. Mary’s College of Maryland to live on campus for a combined virtual learning experience, it may be a while before the public learns of any potential outbreak on the campus.

St. Mary’s Health Officer Dr. Meena Brewster said through a spokesperson that public reporting on cases in congregate living facilities, such as the college, is currently limited to only long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes.

“Any changes to data reporting will be made in consideration of state requirements, patient confidentiality and impact to public health,” the spokesperson said.

Terry Prochnow, the public health response director for the St. Mary’s health department, said students at the college can get tested at the health department’s testing sites, which are for county residents only, by listing their dorm address as their residence. The case is then added to the county’s case count and to the St. Mary’s City ZIP code.

The Maryland Department of Health did not respond to questions regarding data on college campuses before press time this week.

As of Tuesday, the county had added 74 new cases within the past week. Many more recent cases were clustered in the 20-29 age group, which has recently grown to have more cases than older age groups, which previously had significantly higher counts due to universal testing and outbreaks at nursing homes.

Nursing homes, which have had their numbers of confirmed cases and deaths posted online regularly since the spring, have had new cases dwindle in recent months, although an outbreak has been growing at St. Mary’s Nursing Center in Leonardtown, where 19 residents and 17 staff have tested positive for the virus.

A St. Mary’s health department spokesperson said even when there are advanced precautions at nursing homes, there is still risk involved when residents travel outside for medical services and when staff return to their families.

Chesapeake Shores in Lexington Park has had eight staff members and two residents test positive.

At Charlotte Hall Veterans Home, a total of 61 residents and one staff member died of COVID-19, and 208 residents and 96 staff tested positive throughout the pandemic, although that outbreak slowed down in the past two months.

Those nursing home numbers became publicly available, by Gov. Larry Hogan’s order, this spring after families and advocates called for greater transparency from nursing homes, which had recently suffered from major outbreaks that were unbeknownst to the public.

The health department operates two appointment-free testing sites in the county, one in Lexington Park, and one in Leonardtown.

As of Wednesday, the Lexington Park location had tested 2,514 individuals and the Leonardtown location had tested 231. In total, the health department has run 3,787 tests through the two locations and other testing events.

For more information on getting tested, visit www.smchd.org/covid-19-testing/.

Twitter: @DanSoMdNews

Twitter: @DanSoMdNews