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CUMBERLAND — As the number of local novel coronavirus cases grows, contact tracing is being conducted every day, more medical gowns are needed, and there’s no plan for a state-run COVID-19 testing facility in Allegany County.

The Allegany County Health Department said Wednesday 23 more people have been diagnosed with the disease since Monday, which brings the jurisdiction’s cumulative case count to 628.

“The latest cases include a female and a male in their teens, four females and a male in their 20s, two females in their 30s, two females in their 40s, two females and two males in their 50s, two females and four males in their 60s, a male in his 70s, and a female in her 80s,” the department said via press release. “One of the new cases has been hospitalized.”

ACHD, along with local health departments across the state, are conducting contact tracing to identify people who may have come into contact with an individual with an infectious disease.

The process involves identifying infected people, determining who they have been in close contact with while infectious, and asking people who are potentially infected to stay home until it is clear they are not sick.

“Maryland has contracted with NORC at the University of Chicago, one of the largest independent social research organizations in the United States, to assist in contact tracing efforts,” ACHD said. “If you receive a phone call from ‘MD COVID,’ please pick up. It is likely a contact tracer trying to get ahold of you.”

“ACHD contact tracing is conducted seven days a week,” said Jenelle Mayer, county health officer, via email. “The process begins as soon as ACHD receives a positive COVID-19 test result from a lab or a testing provider.”

Nine ACHD nurses conduct contact tracing, she said.

“ACHD nurses have completed contact tracing for about 600 patients in Allegany County since the start of the pandemic,” Mayer said.

The Garrett County Health Department’s website Wednesday listed a seven-day positivity percentage for the disease of 5.3%.

The benchmark the World Health Organization recommends governments spend 14 consecutive days below, before easing virus-related restrictions, is 5%.

Maryland’s testing positivity rate was 3.11% Wednesday.

At that time, the state reported 492 new cases of the disease and eight deaths in the past 24 hours.

No state testing site planned

When asked by the Cumberland Times-News whether there are plans to add a state-run COVID-19 testing facility to Allegany County, Charles Gischlar, Maryland Department of Health communications office deputy director, provided the following statement via email:

“Testing sites are available in every corner of the state and supporting a variety of site models allows Maryland to maintain a very robust overall testing capacity. We welcome the privately operated sites that provide a large number of testing options across the state, including in Allegany County. Major hospitals, urgent care clinics, and other private partners play a critical role in creating COVID-19 testing availability for their patients. With the sites currently open in Allegany County, there are options available every day of the week and ample capacity to meet local demand.”

A search of COVID-19 testing facilities on the state health department website shows sites in Cumberland and LaVale that charge between $100 and $129, depending on insurance coverage.

Since summer, the state health department allocated COVID-19 specimen collection kits to the ACHD “for use in various community settings,” he said.

“These kits have supported recent testing events at the Allegany County Fairgrounds and Allegany College of Maryland as well as ongoing testing at the Allegany County Detention Center,” Gischlar said.

“We have no requests from the county health department for additional testing resources at this time,” he said.

Volunteers needed to sew gowns

Meanwhile, ACHD needs volunteers to sew isolation gowns to be distributed to local nursing homes, emergency management services and hospital staff.

The Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation describes isolation gowns as apparel used to protect health care workers and patients from the transfer of microorganisms and body fluids in patient isolation situations.

“If you have sewing skills or know someone who might be willing to help us out, please contact me as soon as possible so that I can get gown kits to you,” ACHD public information officer Brenda Caldwell wrote in an email. “Each kit makes five isolation gowns, and we have patterns for both standard size (blue) and plus size (black) gowns.”

Email her at brenda.caldwell@maryland.gov.

“The washable gowns are a long-term supply option because they can be laundered and used over and over again. That way facilities don’t have to worry about relying on disposable gown supplies,” Caldwell said.

UPMC Western Maryland officials on Tuesday said the hospital is in “excellent shape when it comes to our inventory of isolation gowns.”

Teresa McMinn is the digital editor at Cumberland Times-News. Email her at tmcminn@times-news.com, call/text her at 304-639-2371 and follow her on Twitter.

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