Montgomery County officials taking steps to address COVID-19 in senior facilities

Montgomery County is now taking its own steps to fight COVID-19 on the senior citizen-front.

When it comes to Maryland’s seniors, more than half of the state’s confirmed COVID-19 deaths are still coming from the senior living facilities – with Montgomery County showing the most number of senior facilities impacted.

Download the FOX 5 DC News App for Local Breaking News and Weather

According to the Department of Health website, the county is reporting 215 resident deaths as of Friday, May 8, with 1,000 residents impacted and 512 staff members testing positive. Two senior facility staff members have died in Montgomery County.

Nursing facilities across the state are suffering COVID-19 outbreaks.

Looking more into Montgomery County’s numbers, more than 50 senior sites have reported positive COVID-19 outbreaks. At least six reported 10 or more residents deaths.

RELATED: Maryland Department of Health releases nursing home data related to COVID-19 pandemic

Officials point to the larger population in the county and are analyzing outbreaks by facility size. When asked if he could the name the county facilities dealing with the worst population-to-COVID19 ratios, Dr. Travis Gayles refrained from identifying the facilities, but said one case in any senior facility is bad news.

“So just by having one case in your facility qualifies and meets the EPI definition of an outbreak for probing related conditions to nursing homes. So we’re looking at the number of folks, we’re looking at the number of staff involved. And I think for additional context, it’s important to – note that the majority of our nursing home cases popped up at the end of March and early April,” said Gayles.

READ MORE: Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan issues order requiring 'universal' COVID-19 testing at nursing homes

Montgomery County’s Chief Health Officer told FOX 5 that “end of March and early April” period is before the time health departments had received guidance that asymptomatic people could transmit COVID-19. Therefore, Gayles said it’s believed that within nursing homes, staff were unknowingly sharing the virus.

Governor Larry Hogan has called for universal testing in senior facilities and for their staff. However, county leaders say testing is still an issue.

Friday, Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando told FOX 5 even Montgomery County reached out to South Korea hoping to procure more testing to meet the Governor’s testing order.

Jawando said they’ve also reached out to other providers and are hoping to announce a private testing partnership soon.

When asked about the timing of all this, Jawando answered, “… It’s too late. And I’m frustrated about it. I got emotional yesterday talking about my uncle who died on Tuesday in a nursing home in this region and I have an aunt who’s in a senior facility right now in Montgomery County whose recently been tested and we’re waiting the results. I’m just one of the many people whose been impacted personally and it’s not fair. And it’s not right.”

The councilmember added, “And we haven’t moved quickly enough at every level of government but it really starts at the top with the present just not taking responsibility for testing.”

Jawando said the county council is also looking at more county oversight and plans to request weekly updates on the nursing homes’ status.

County officials say while many outbreaks have already occurred, it’s important to mitigate any issues within senior facilities now and prepare for the future, which could include another COVID-19 wave.