The Maryland Vehicle Administration emissions testing facility in White Oak will become a drive-thru coronavirus testing site, Gov. Larry Hogan announced Friday afternoon.
During a press conference, Hogan also said he has issued executive orders prohibiting mortgage lenders from initiating foreclosures; banning the repossession of cars, trucks and mobile homes; and extending the statewide ban on residential evictions to industrial and commercial properties. State agencies will suspend all debt collection activities during the pandemic. Health care workers in all practices are now authorized to conduct virtual appointments with patients.
Hogan did not say when the White Oak testing site will open.
In an email, Charlie Gischlar, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Health, wrote that sites Hogan announced in Montgomery and Howard counties will be the fourth and fifth state emissions facilities converted to coronavirus testing use.
“Currently, these sites are being prepared and we will know more about active operations next week,” Gischlar wrote on Saturday.
The first three emissions centers converted into coronavirus testing sites – in Anne Arundel, Charles and Harford counties — have been open three days a week, four hours a day. As of Saturday, more than 330 tests had been administered at those three sites, according to Gischlar.
To qualify for testing, residents must have symptoms, obtain an order from a health care provider and make an appointment.
A person who has a doctor’s order for a test will receive a unique code to use to create an appointment.
“At the test sites, individuals will remain in their vehicles with the windows rolled up until it is time to receive their test,” a previous press release from the state about other similar sites said. “Testing requires a clinician to insert a single long swab (Q-tip) into the back of the person’s nostril for several seconds. Most individuals experience minor discomfort at most.”
Some private companies have held drive-thru testing in Montgomery County, but the White Oak location will be the first state-hosted site.
There were 793 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, or COVID-19, in Montgomery County as of Monday morning and 13 people had died, according to state data.
Statewide, there are 4,045 cases.
“I wish I could tell you when things would get back to normal, but … we simply don’t know just how bad things are going to get or exactly how long this is going to last,” Hogan said. “No matter how long or how hard the road ahead might be, we’re going to have to find a way … to keep fighting this invisible enemy with everything we’ve got.”
There have been coronavirus outbreaks at 60 nursing home facilities throughout the state, according to Deputy Health Secretary Fran Phillips, 10 of which are in Montgomery County.
A nursing home has an “outbreak” if it has at least one confirmed case among residents or staff, Phillips said.
In Montgomery County, the nursing homes reporting cases are:
- Althea Woodland, Silver Spring, one confirmed case in a staff member
- The Angels Garden, Rockville, one confirmed case in a resident in his 70s who has died
- Brighton Gardens, North Bethesda, one confirmed case in a staff member
- Brooke Grove, Sandy Spring, one confirmed case in a resident
- Cadia Healthcare, Wheaton, one confirmed case in a resident
- Fairland Center, Silver Spring, one confirmed case in a staff member
- Fox Chase Rehab and Nursing, Silver Spring, one confirmed case in a staff member
- Hebrew Home of Greater Washington, Rockville, one confirmed case in a resident
- Maplewood Park Place, Bethesda, one confirmed case in a resident
- Layhill Center, Silver Spring, three confirmed cases in residents and one confirmed case in a staff member.
Phillips on Friday directed all staff members who interact with residents at nursing homes across the state to wear masks.
Phillips said that while residents throughout the state can wear surgical or cloth masks to help prevent the spread of the virus, “the most critical place for these masks to be is on the faces of health care workers.”
Robert Green, secretary of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said three inmates in Maryland have tested positive for COVID-19, as well as four correctional officers, two probation officers and eight contractors. He did not disclose the locations where those people work or are incarcerated.
Visitation and volunteer opportunities were suspended in March, Green said, and the Division of Correction is now providing virtual visitation and free phone calls for inmates to stay connected with their families.
Additionally, inmates involved in work programs are producing surgical masks, gowns, face shields and hand sanitizer for health care professionals.
Maryland Correctional Enterprises, the industry arm of the Division of Correction, has created 5,000 face shields, with material prepared to make 50,000 more, Green said.
The entity has made 4,000 face masks.
While places of worship remain closed and the coronavirus continues to spread, Hogan asked all Maryland residents to “join together in a moment of prayer or reflection” at noon on Sunday.
He asked everyone to spend the time thinking about people who have died or are sick and for doctors, nurses and first responders “working around the clock to bring about a new dawn in our history.”
Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Managing Editor Andrew Schotz contributed to this story.
For other Bethesda Beat coverage of the coronavirus, click here.
To see a timeline of major coronavirus developments in Maryland and Montgomery County, click here.