COVID-19 has caused the deaths of 15 residents at Autumn Lake Healthcare at Chestertown, according to the state’s coronavirus website.
The novel coronavirus has infected 55 residents and 13 staff members at the facility. The data is updated weekly on Wednesdays.
Five residents and one staffer at the Resorts at Chester Manor also have contracted the disease.
The state data does not include Heron Point, where at least three cases — two patients and one staffer — previously had been reported.
In neighboring Queen Anne’s County, four staff members at the Corsica Hills Center have tested positive.
Statewide, about 22 percent of confirmed COVID-19 cases are among residents and staffers at congregate living facilities, such as nursing homes, assisted living facilities, state and local facilities, and group homes with 10 or more occupants.
There are 6,268 cases related to such facilities — 4,342 residents and 1,926 staffers.
Slightly more than 60 percent of Maryland’s 1,338 COVID-19 deaths are related to congregate living facilities; 793 residents and 11 staff members have died.
Kent County will offer $1,000 COVID-19 relief grants to the first 75 small businesses that qualify.
Businesses will be able to apply online at https://www.kentcounty.com/business/business-support/incentives/grants beginning at 10 a.m. Thursday, May 7. Applications will close at 5 p.m. Friday, May 15.
Applications will be date and time stamped upon submittal of the online form and the grants will be provided to the first 75 eligible businesses.
The online application should take 10 minutes or less, Jamie Williams, the county’s economic development director, told the Kent County Commissioners Tuesday night.
The grants are being offered to Kent County for-profit businesses established before Jan. 1, 2020, that had no more than four employees on March 5, 2020. Businesses must be in good standing with the county and state.
Businesses that have received some form of COVID-19 relief — such as from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) or the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program — will only be considered for county grants if there is money remaining in the program after businesses that have received no funds elsewhere are given grants.
“This gives us a chance to help a few more people that have not been helped by other means,” Kent County Commissioner Ron Fithian said Tuesday night. “We just want to make it go as far as it can.”
The grant funds are coming from the county’s revolving loan fund, which will be dissolved. County officials said that program had never performed as hoped.
According to Kent County Economic Development:
“The Kent County Small Business COVID-19 Emergency Grant Fund will offer working capital to assist Kent County for-profit, small businesses with disrupted operations due to COVID-19.
“Grant assistance is intended to provide interim relief complementing arrangements with the business’ bank(s), business interruption insurance, financial institutions, and federal and state partners.”
Williams also gave the commissioners a brief review of the results of a business impact questionnaire that has been completed by 76 Kent County businesses so far.
The questionnaire continues through Friday and is available online under the Business Resources tab at https://www.kentcounty.com/coronavirus.
Asked if operations had changed as a result of the pandemic and state of emergency, 49% of responding businesses said they had shut down, 33% responded other, 21% were operating with modifications, and 8% were operating normally, Williams said.
About two-thirds of the responding businesses said there had been no layoffs as a result of the pandemic and 63% said no future layoffs are planned. Only 20% of businesses are using telework.
About 42% of businesses said they were are risk or high risk of closing permanently if the state of emergency is prolonged; 11% said the business was at no risk of closing.
Businesses were asked to use a 1-5 scale to quantify the risk of closing, with 1 being no risk and 5 being high risk.
The responses were: 1) 11%; 2) 24%; 3) 24%; 4) 21%; 5) 21%.
One resident at Autumn Lake Healthcare at Chestertown has died after testing positive for COVID-19, according to county health officials. Another resident is hospitalized with the virus, and 10 more residents and three staff members also have tested positive.
A “Go Team” with Maryland National Guardsmen and disaster medical assistance personnel from the Maryland Department of Health and Human Services was activated and responded Sunday to the facility, according to a press release from the Kent County Health Department. The team was at the facility from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sunday.
“We are appreciative of Gov. Hogan’s decision to make these ‘Go Teams’ available to assist Maryland nursing homes,” William Webb, Kent County’s health officer, said in the press release. “Autumn Lake Healthcare is following recommendations from the ‘Go Team’ and the infection control guidelines of the Maryland Department of Health. Our organizations are in daily communication and we will continue to provide support to the residents, their families, and facility staff during this time.”
Autumn Lake had previously put into place prevention measures according to state and federal guidance, including restricting visitation and communal dining, suspending group activities, taking extra cleaning measures, and conducting daily checks for symptoms of residents and staff members, according to the press release.
During an outbreak, the facility must elevate its infection control practices and delivered items must be inspected and disinfected, according to the health department. For this reason, Autumn Lake, in conjunction with the health department, has asked that families do not drop off food, clothing, or other personal effects for residents.
“I implore everyone to take this virus seriously and be vigilant to prevent its spread,” Webb said in the statement. “Our highest priority is to keep everyone safe and we must take every step possible to protect our most vulnerable.”
Autumn Lake Healthcare at Chestertown describes itself on its website as “a state-of-the-art nursing center brimming with small-town heart. In addition to subacute rehabilitation, we are known for our excellence in long-term care, providing round-the-clock skilled nursing for a wide range of complex medical conditions.”
Information on COVID-19 may be found on the state’s website at coronavirus.maryland.gov or the county health department’s website at kenthd.org
The health department operates a call center at 410-778-1350 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.
The health department will not disclose individual information about Autumn Lake residents. The status of each resident is being communicated to the primary contact on file with Autumn Lake.
Decreased revenue as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has Kent County officials weighing whether or not to seek a waiver from state mandated funding levels for public schools.
The Kent County Commissioners heard the annual budget presentation from the school system during Tuesday morning’s meeting.
But before hearing from Karen Couch, the county’s school superintendent, commissioners outlined funding concerns for next year’s budget.
“With our finances and what we’re projecting, I don’t know where we’re coming from with this budget,” Commission President Tom Mason said. “We’re looking at a 25 to 30 percent decrease in our income tax income, which could be a $3 to 4 million deficit to the county.
“We’ve asked all of our other departments — it’s a flat budget…. We have no salary increases for the county, no new positions, no promotions, we’ve funded (below) FY2020…. We’re very interested in wanting to hear what you say but … I’ll just be honest with you, I don’t see how it’s going to happen,” he said.
“We know we have to fund the maintenance of effort,” Mason said, “even though we are considering asking a deferral on that from the state. And I would hope that if we do that the Board of Education and you as the superintendent would support that and would sign that request.
“We have not decided whether we’re going to do that yet, but it is certainly something we are considering and I believe probably other counties are going to be considering it,” he said. “It would be irresponsible on our part to ask the citizens of Kent County to … they’re already sacrificing and this would be more sacrifice.”
Commissioner Ron Fithian said county businesses are losing tens of thousands of dollars monthly during the closure of non-essential businesses ordered by Gov. Larry Hogan.
“It’s a troubling time,” Fithian said. “We’re going to do the best we can as we move forward, but we don’t know what’s around the next corner.…
“We haven’t got a clue what we’re going to end up with, there’s just too many unanswered questions,” he said. “You don’t even know today when you’re going to go back to school, when our kids are going to go back to school, let alone when the businesses are going to open up.”
The school board has proposed a $29 million budget for Fiscal Year 2021, about $1 million more than this year’s budget. Most of that increase is being sought from county taxpayers and is driven by state funding formulas.
To comply with state maintenance of effort requirements, Kent County would have to provide an additional $510,665 to county schools next year. Another provision, an escalator in state law for those counties whose school spending is below the state average, requires a 2.5 percent increase over current funding, for an additional $515,536.
State funding is projected to increase $130,439 overall, after a reduction of $177,081 for declining enrollment assistance.
Nearly $700,000 of the additional funding would go toward salary increases and new positions, and higher insurance costs, according to the budget proposed by the school board.
The school system is looking to add 3.5 positions for a total cost of $150,000, much of that for a special education teacher at Kent County Middle School. The state’s higher minimum wage accounts for $40,000 of the total salary increase.
Other requests include $50,000 to buy a used bus, $50,000 for school furniture, $30,000 for the lease/purchase of two new buses, $30,000 for the Kent Blended Learning Academy, and $18,500 for the Kent County Middle School athletics fields.
In broad categories, which is how the county commissioners approve the school budget, there would be the following increases or decreases:
• Instruction: $456,292 increase; $390,792 for salary, the remainder for equipment, supplies, materials, and contracted services
• Fixed charges: $391,824 increase
• Special education: $115,380 increase in salary, including $90,000 for the new middle school position
• Administration: $79,807 increase in salary
• Student personnel services: $76,331 increase in salary
• Health services: $17,000 increase in contracted services
• Mid-level administration: $7,529 increase in salary
• Plant maintenance: $1,070 increase in salary
• Transportation: $52,629 total decrease; with $143,324 cut from salaries, but additional spending of $50,000 for equipment, $30,000 for other charges, and $10,695 for contracted services
• Plant operation: $4,244 decrease in salary
The Kent County Health Department has confirmed the first death of a county resident related to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The individual was a man in his 70s.
“We want his family and loved ones to know that we are deeply saddened by the news of his passing, and we express our sympathies during this very difficult time,” William Webb, Kent County’s health officer, said in a statement. “This pandemic represents an unprecedented crisis for our community and our nation.
‘We are confronting this pandemic head on and working tirelessly to protect the well-being of our residents,” Webb said. “People of Kent County are resilient, we support one another in times of need, and we will continue to hold each other up as we do everything we can to contain the spread of this virus and work to prevent further loss of life.”
Resources and Support
Stress, anxiety, and other depression-like symptoms are common reactions after a disaster. If you are experiencing current distress and would like to talk to a trained crisis counselor, please call SAMSHA’s Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990.
The Helpline is a 24/7, 365-day-a-year, national hotline dedicated to providing immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster.
This toll-free, multilingual, and confidential crisis support service is available to all residents in the United States and its territories. Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.
To learn how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19, visit Maryland’s web page at coronavirus.maryland.gov or the Kent County Health Department’s web page at kenthd.org, or call the COVID-19 Call Center at 410-778-1350.
While most of our retail establishments have implemented essential social distancing measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, others may be neglecting their civic responsibility to keep their patrons, our citizens, safe.
In the interest of protecting all Kent County residents from the spread of COVID-19, Governor Hogan has issued an executive order giving local health departments the authority to require modification of operations or to close retail establishments that are not complying with social distancing guidelines.
If you have not yet implemented appropriate social distancing strategies, you need to develop a plan and implement it immediately. For resources and guidance, click here. Additional guidance specific to small businesses can be found here.
Some effective strategies for social distancing include, but are not limited to: marking floors to ensure adequate distance between customers, limiting the number of people at one time in the facility and establishing customer flow patterns that limit contact between your customers.
Additionally, you must regularly disinfect frequently touched surfaces like shopping carts, door handles, checkout areas and any other high-touch surfaces.
For everyone’s safety, if an employee is not feeling well, direct them to stay home.
If we find establishments not complying with the governor’s order, Kent County Health Department may issue an order to require the establishment to close until an appropriate social distancing plan is developed and executed. It is up to the management of the establishment to ensure a safe environment for its patrons. Repeated social distancing violations may result in an order to close for the duration of the emergency.
We want to thank the business community for supporting our residents, and we applaud your efforts to keep all Kent County residents as safe as possible.
A resident of an independent living cottage at Heron Point Retirement Community has tested positive for COVID-19, making the county’s fifth patient, Kent County’s health officer confirmed.
William Webb said the Kent County Health Department is working with Heron Point on a contact investigation.
As a cottage resident, there is limited exposure to the broader facility, he said.
Heron Point, an Acts Retirement-Life Communities facility on Campus Avenue in Chestertown, includes cottages and apartment homes, as well as assisted living and skilled nursing care accommodations, on 66 acres along the Chester River.
Webb said Heron Point has been conducting the standard practices listed by the CDC and WHO, including frequent hand washing and disinfecting surfaces.
“They have been doing a lot of that already,” Webb said. “They’re very good at that over there.”
For the general community, Webb also encouraged frequent hand washing and following Gov. Larry Hogan’s stay-at-home order.
“Stay the course,” Webb said. “This is going to take longer than anybody wants. Stay at home if at all possible.”
Kent County’s health officer urged residents to follow social distancing and cleaning guidelines and to rely on reliable sources for information about COVID-19.
Kent County has confirmed two residents with the virus, with the most recent positive test result being reported to the health department late Thursday night. The county’s second patient is a man in his 60s with no known travel history. He was tested on March 23.
“As COVID-19 is now widespread in Maryland, it is likely that we will continue to identify more positive cases in the county,” William Webb, Kent County health officer, said in a statement. “A contact tracing investigation is underway to determine exposure within the county, and we are working with the Maryland Department of Health to take the appropriate precautions.”
In a Friday morning phone interview, Webb said area residents should continue to practice social distancing, frequent hand washing, and regular cleaning of surfaces.
“The important message that I want to send is for the community not to panic,” he said. “This disease will be with us, it’s here in the community and will be with us for a while. Most people who get infected only develop a mild case of the disease and will be able to recover at home with minimal medical attention.”
“We’re asking everybody to follow the recommendations that have been posted and what leadership has currently advocated relating to staying home, use social distancing, make sure you wash your hands, cover your cough, and disinfect your high-touch surfaces.
“We know that it’s coming,” Webb said. “Limiting group activities and social activities, all of that’s being done to hold that off as long as possible. In Kent County, we have a lot of people who love to do things on the water. The analogy I like to use is we can handle a high tide every once in a while but we can’t handle a tsunami.”
Webb also encouraged people to stay in touch with family, friends, and colleagues through phone calls or social media.
“At this point we’re hearing all about social distancing. The message that I also would extend is that doesn’t mean disconnect. Please stay connected with your friends, your family members, your co-workers.
“You don’t have to be physically in contact with them. Please remember to reach out and stay socially connected whether it’s by telephone, whether it’s by Facebook, whether it’s by other social media,” Webb said. “Just to make sure that folks are not feeling alone because it’s very easy to get cabin fever and knowing that we’re in this together as a community, knowing that you have people that are looking out for you — it’s one of the reasons I live in a small town.”
Webb said the biggest challenge for Kent County has been the limited amount of testing supplies and personal protective equipment.
“Also in planning a community response for a spike in the need for health care services,” he said. “All of the response that has been put in place at this point has been to slow the spread of disease to allow our healthcare system to ramp up to be able to handle the increase in cases that will be coming.”
The health department has been working with Shore Regional Health and other health care providers to prepare for a surge in cases.
“The health department is an important partner with Shore Health and the University of Maryland Shore Regional Health hospital in Chestertown,” Webb said. “We are helping to facilitate the University of Maryland, from a statewide perspective, get equipment and resources that they need.
“For example, the health department has received personal protective equipment from the national strategic stockpile. We have distributed that to the hospital to augment the supplies that they have and we’re also actively working with all the hospital systems to plan and coordinate surge capabilities in our acute medical centers.”
Webb said the Chestertown hospital has been operating under its licensed capacity for more than a week as non-essential and elective services have been postponed and 911 calls for emergency services have decreased.
“They have worked very diligently to minimize all non-essential or elective services that are going in that the hospital is seeing in preparation for the surge capability,” he said. “I think that’s a general understanding that the hospitals moving forward for the next several months are really going to be where services related to COVID-19 are going to be most critical.”
Asked about concerns about guests who are lodging in Kent County, Webb said those who have travelled from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut should self-quarantine for 14 days.
“That means that you can come and you can stay but please stay wherever you are for 14 days to ensure that you don’t have symptoms and you aren’t spreading it into the community,” he said.
Webb said the “community response to this crisis has been outstanding.”
“The health department has gotten almost universal public and private cooperation from all of our sister agencies, both county and state; we’re getting cooperation from the private nonprofit sector; it has truly been overwhelmingly impressive.
“Our leadership has been engaged and proactive; it has been responsive to the needs of the community,” Webb said. “This is a situation in Kent County where we’re a small community where everybody is pulling together and I have been overwhelmed by everybody’s willingness to pitch in and help when I call so that’s just been fantastic.”
As the pandemic continues and more cases are confirmed, he urged all residents to “use reliable sources of information.
“In a small community there are a whole lot of rumors that go around and there can be a lot of misinformation,” Webb said. “I encourage everyone to use reliable sources such as the CDC web page, the Maryland Department of Health and the Kent County Department of Health web page.
Those without internet access may call 2-1-1 at any time or the Kent County Health Department’s hotline at 410-778-1350 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.