ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — Gov. Larry Hogan announced Wednesday significant progress to Maryland’s coronavirus testing capacity.

Universal coronavirus testing will now be available at Maryland’s state-run correctional and juvenile facilities for detainees and staff, Gov. Hogan said.

He also announced that the state is delivering more than 20,000 COVID-19 tests per week to nursing homes.

CORONAVIRUS COVERAGE:

“Our state continues to make significant progress on all four of the necessary building blocks for our recovery, including on our long-term strategy to dramatically expand testing for COVID-19 across the state,” Gov. Hogan said. “To continue our aggressive efforts to target and isolate any outbreaks and clusters of cases, we will complete distribution of universal testing for nursing home residents and staff this month, and begin universal testing at all state-run correctional and juvenile facilities. Additionally, we are producing viral transport media to overcome supply chain challenges and boost our testing resources.”

In a news release, the Maryland Office of the Public Defender applauded the move, calling efforts to keep the virus from spreading behind bars “an urgent public health concern.”

“Similar to nursing homes, correctional and juvenile facilities pose exceptionally high risks of COVID-19 transmission and our clients housed in these facilities disproportionately meet the heightened vulnerability criteria identified by the CDC and other public health entities,” public defender Paul DeWolfe said. “Hopefully, local corrections departments will follow the state’s lead to conduct universal testing among their jail population and use that information to protect the health and safety of the people incarcerated, the facility staff, and the surrounding community.”

The state’s public health laboratory is producing up to 10,000 tubes of viral transport media on a weekly basis to overcome a supply chain challenge and to boost testing resources.

Maryland is also distributing more than 33,000 additional swabs and 10,000 more test kits to local jurisdictions to help boost local testing capacity.

No-cost, appointment-free testing will begin at drive-thru testing sites Thursday in Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County, and Prince George’s County as well as at any state pharmacies.

 

General Assembly leaders had a cautious reaction.

“What I very much hope is it is not the same as the governor saying the unemployment system has been fixed,” Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson said during an online hearing.

Senator Ferguson alleged officials with the Maryland Department of Health have failed to make any representative available to answer lawmakers’ questions at the recent virtual hearings.

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.

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