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CUMBERLAND — State health officials will open a free COVID-19 testing facility at the Allegany County Fairgrounds in the coming days.

Gov. Larry Hogan said during a Thursday news conference the site comes in response to growing infections in the county.

“The testing center will be free to the public at the Allegany County Fairgrounds,” Jake Shade, president of the Allegany County Board of Commissioners, said during a Thursday evening meeting. “It will be outside, drive-up and it will be administered by the state of Maryland and in conjunction with the Allegany County Health Department.”

Coronavirus cases have steadily increased in the county over the last month. In-state statistics released Thursday, Allegany County led the state’s seven-day case rate per thousand at 41.59, compared to Maryland’s average of 14.98.

“It will be a permanent site and it will be like the sites that are downstate. This will be the westernmost site,” said Shade. “We had asked for this in summer but it didn’t happen. But now, with our rate so high, they decided to do it and it is a great thing to have an easy and free testing location right here in Allegany County.”

Shade said all of the details are not known yet but will be released soon.

“We expect that it will open in the next week or so,” said Shade. “We urge everyone to please wear a mask and to remain vigilant with everything you are doing with COVID. The state did not plan to place any restrictions but we certainly don’t want them to push us back.”

People are urged to check the county’s website, gov.allconet.org, or phone the Allegany County Office Complex for more information.

In other news from the meeting, the county is entering into an agreement with the Maryland Department of Commerce to release additional COVID relief grant funding of $649,548. Shade said the funds will be available to businesses, particularly restaurants, with business owners urged to apply online.

Greg Larry is a reporter at Cumberland Times-News. Follow him on Twitter @GregLarryCTN.

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