More than 51K file for unemployment in Maryland

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan speaks at a news conference in Annapolis on Wednesday, May 13, 2020. On Friday, Hogan extended a moratorium on utility shutoffs and residential late fees to July 1.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland is widely expanding access to coronavirus testing, to people without appointments or symptoms — a step that epidemiologists say is key to containing the spread of COVID-19.

Gov. Larry Hogan announced 17 new COVID-19 test sites at CVS Pharmacy drive-thru locations across the state, with more test sites to be opened by month's end, his office said. And when the state opened a drive-thru testing site at the Timonium Fairgrounds in Baltimore County on Thursday, it reached its capacity of 1,000 tests early in the day.

“I think the fact that we were at capacity so quickly speaks to the incredible need out there in the community, and meeting this need is critical,” said Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski, who posted a video of remarks he made at the site on his Twitter account.

Additional drive-thru testing to people without appointments or symptoms is scheduled to open Friday at the Glen Burnie Vehicle Emissions Inspection Program site in Anne Arundel County and at the Hyattsville VEIP station in Prince George’s County, the governor’s office announced this week.

Hogan also announced Thursday that Maryland's statewide contact tracing operation across all 24 of the state's jurisdictions will be fully operational next week. Maryland will have more than 1,400 case investigators statewide, the governor's office said.

Under the initiative, case investigators will reach out to people after they test positive for the virus within 24 hours to begin a trace investigation. Local health officials with help from the state will be able to track 1,000 cases and 10,000 contacts on a daily basis, the governor's office said.

Meanwhile, business shutdowns to contain the spread continue to profoundly impact the economy. Maryland's labor department announced Thursday that 51,108 people filed for unemployment benefits for the first time last week, down from 65,805 people the week before.

More than 607,000 Maryland residents have filed for unemployment in the last nine weeks. The U.S. Labor Department says roughly 38.6 million people have filed for jobless aid in the United States since the coronavirus forced millions of businesses to close their doors and shrink their workforces.

Hogan made headlines last month when the state acquired 500,000 test kits from a South Korean company in a confidential deal, but Maryland has not had all the components needed for testing - like swabs - to meet demand. Hogan said last week that Maryland got the first 75,000 of 350,000 swabs it requested from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

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