ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — Gov. Larry Hogan issued Wednesday an executive order that requires universal testing of residents and staff at all Maryland nursing homes.

Facilities will be prioritized based on an “imminent outbreak or a current rising threat risk,” according to the Hogan administration.

“Even when best practices and care is in place, this virus may still be transmitted by asymptotic staff, meaning that every patient interaction comes with some risk,” Gov. Hogan said.

Under the order, it will be mandatory for facilities to fully comply with strike teams deployed by the state. All nursing homes must have a physician, nurse practitioner, physician’s assistant or registered nurse to evaluate all residents on a daily basis.

Along with that, all facilities must develop “surge staffing plans” to ensure continuity of care in the event of an outbreak.

CORONAVIRUS RESOURCES: 

The governor announced new “bridge teams” to provide emergency clinical staffing.

Each bridge team will have a registered nurse and five to seven aides, sufficient to care for up to 100 skilled nursing home residents per shift.

The teams will be fully vetted and are ready to be immediately deployed to provide 24-hour coverage for nursing homes in a crisis, the administration said.

Nursing homes must also regularly update residents and staff and families on cases within their facilities.

Forty-six percent of the state’s coronavirus deaths are based in nursing homes, the governor said Wednesday. Nineteen percent of cases, in general, are coming from these facilities as well.

Outbreaks or clusters of cases have popped up at 278 facilities across the state, including 4,011 confirmed cases at 143 different Maryland nursing homes.

WJZ spoke with one employee at a Baltimore nursing home who wished to not be identified.

“Really, it’s been very difficult trying to cope because you’re afraid daily that you’re going to end up in the hospital,” the nurse said.

Family members of nursing home residents in Maryland also raised concerns.

“It should’ve been done for at least the in the last three or four weeks,” Rick Mantheiy, a family member of a Pleasant View Nursing Home resident, said. “We could’ve really lessened the deaths, especially in Maryland, if we would’ve done more with nursing homes as a focus.”

Because of this concern, the governor has appointed Colonel Eric Allely, state surgeon of the Maryland National Guard, to serve as an emergency safety and compliance officer for Maryland nursing homes.

Allely will be tasked with directing a multi-agency team to ensure compliance with state law during the pandemic.

Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson weighed in on the nursing home outbreaks during a virtual legislative panel.

“I hope we are learning the right lessons about nursing homes because it’s probably the tip of the iceberg… When things spark, it can get out of control really quickly,” he said.

For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department’s website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ’s coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.

Ava-joye Burnett

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