Maryland AARP Leader Says Some Nursing Home Residents Have Been ‘Denied’ COVID-19 Tests

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, nursing homes have been hit hard. The 1,276 patient deaths now account for 43 percent of all deaths in the state since the pandemic began.

“Just because people are older doesn’t mean they don’t need to be screened as well,” said Tammy Bresnahan with Maryland’s AARP.

While the state has promised universal testing in nursing homes, Bresnahan said that is not always the case.

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“We have heard from people who requested to be tested. They were denied,” she said. “We have one woman who was in a facility. She was exposed to COVID and wanted to be tested and she couldn’t get tested.”

Governor Larry Hogan recently allowed limited outdoor visits at nursing homes, but the AARP said some family members are being denied contact with loved ones—even virtually.

“They called the facility. They can’t get through. No one ever answers the phone. Their loved one isn’t available,” Bresnahan said.

The AARP is lobbying against national efforts to limit nursing homes’ liability from the coronavirus.

“We need to hold these long-term care facilities accountable. If they are given immunity, then they won’t be held accountable,” Bresnahan said. “Families with loved ones in these facilities, they demand better.”

Also, WJZ has learned there are 15 more cases at the Central Maryland Correctional Facility in Carroll County—as testing has expanded there.

State corrections officials reported 433 inmates across Maryland have tested positive—and eight have died since the pandemic began. One staff member has died and 422 have tested positive.

In Maryland, the percentage of positive patients crept up slightly Tuesday, but the state has generally remained stable. Hospitalizations were down by 41 patients according to the Maryland Department of Health.

Rich Pugh owns Johnny Rad’s, a pizzeria in southeast Baltimore, and is one of several restaurateurs who is not opening for limited indoor dining yet—even though the city and state allow it. He believes it is too risky for now.

“A lot of people are so eager to get back to the regular world, they have thrown precaution to the wind. We haven’t,” Pugh said. “It’s just a little early, so we’re going to take our time.”

He remains open for carry out and some outdoor seating and credits the support from his close-knit neighbors for keeping the doors open.

“I can’t thank the neighborhood enough for allowing us to maintain the business that we have—to keep almost every one of our employees gainfully employed,” Pugh 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.