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The president of Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative praised Gov. Larry Hogan’s decision to send “strike teams” composed of Maryland National Guard members, state health officials and doctors and nurses to assist nursing homes overburdened by the spread of the coronavirus.
“Anything that could bring resources to people in nursing homes needs to be done and it’s great that the governor is focusing on this problem,” Vincent DeMarco told MarylandReporter.com in a phone interview on Wednesday.
“We all need to do everything we can in this crisis, including, of course, keep our distance from each other — and absolutely make sure that the most vulnerable people in nursing homes and other areas like that have all the resources they need.”
DeMarco elaborated on that point.
“I think that all the resources we can bring to bear on helping people in places like nursing homes —we need to do. And this needs to be happening all around the country — things like this.”
When asked if he is surprised that Maryland is the first state to put such a plan into action, De Marco said he is not.
“We’ve been a leader on health care and public health in many areas, so I’m not surprised. And I hope other states follow this lead.”
Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative established the Health Care for All! Coalition in 1999. The health care consumer coalition is comprised of hundreds of diverse organizations “including faith, health, community, labor, and business groups from across the state,” according to the initiative’s website.
Del. Kathy Szeliga (R-Baltimore, Harford) also praised Hogan’s decision.
“I think this is a great idea. I am very, very encouraged by how Governor Hogan is addressing this head-on.”
Szeliga said care for nursing home residents is a personal issue for her.
“My parents live in a retirement community and my father actually lives in the nursing home wing of the retirement community. So, very personally, as a daughter with parents living in a retirement community and a nursing home, its imperative that we make sure that we contain the virus and protect people that are in that vulnerable condition.”
Szeliga, who sits on the House Health and Government Operations Committee, was asked about the inclusion of National Guard members on the strike teams.
“I think a lot of what needs to be done in the nursing homes is to make sure that they’re practicing all the safe health guidelines — which I’m sure most of them are. We have fairly well-regulated nursing homes and my experience on the Health committee has been a positive one. But we just need to make sure that we’re doing everything we possibly can to contain the virus and make sure that people in nursing home settings are very, very protected.”
Hogan announced the launch of the strike teams at a news conference in Baltimore on Tuesday. He said there will be three teams: Testing Teams, Assistance Teams and Clinical Teams. The teams are meant to supplement nursing home care rather than replace it, he emphasized. The teams will be activated upon request by nursing homes, local health departments and state health agencies.
At the news conference, Hogan also said the federal government agreed to designate 12 jurisdictions in the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area as hotspots in the fight against the virus. The federal government also agreed to designate Maryland as a priority in the pandemic. Those designations will result in more federal funds. Hogan also said he ordered the state to begin racial and ethnic data collection of all COVID-19 cases. The collection will include hospitalization and death rates, Hogan said.
There are 5,529 confirmed cases of the virus in Maryland as of Wednesday morning, according to the state’s Department of Health. That number is an increase of 1,158 from Tuesday’s virus count. In Maryland 124 people have died from the virus.
Hogan made note of the large increase in reported infections in a series of tweets on Wednesday morning.