Event Provides Update On County COVID-19 Testing

Event Provides Update On County COVID-19 Testing
Pictured, from left, are AGH President/CEO Michael Franklin, Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan, Worcester County Health Officer Rebecca Jones, Worcester County Commission President Joe Mitrecic and State Senator Mary Beth Carozza. Photo by Bethany Hooper

WEST OCEAN CITY – Local officials are encouraging people to do their part and wear a mask as COVID-19 education, prevention and testing efforts continue.

In a media conference held at the West Ocean City Park and Ride Wednesday, local officials provided an update on COVID-19 prevention, testing, and contact tracing efforts throughout Worcester County.

To date, the Worcester County Health Department had processed more than 3,300 COVID-19 tests since the launch of its testing locations at the Pocomoke Health Center and the Park and Ride, representing more than a quarter of all tests conducted throughout the county, according to Health Officer Rebecca Jones.

“To date, we’ve monitored more than 1,500 isolation and quarantine cases,” she said. “Our monitoring team, made up of staff from all of our departments, are working diligently days, nights and weekends to assist residents who are in isolation, keeping track of their symptoms and providing assistance in the form of deliveries when needed.”

Jones recognized the health department’s partnerships with Atlantic General Hospital (AGH) and the Town of Ocean City to provide testing at both the north and south ends of the county, as well as partnerships with the state to coordinate testing clinics at the Ocean City convention center throughout the summer. She also commended health department staff for assisting at testing sites, joining monitoring teams and helping at the agency’s call center when needed.

“We can’t be more proud of the dedication of our staff, helping the community during this difficult time,” she said. “Here in Worcester, we always say it takes a village when it comes to supporting the health of our residents and visitors.”

Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan applauded the team effort of local agencies.

“The last few years I’ve used the catch phrase ‘Every year we need to expect the unexpected,’” he said. “Well whoever would have expected COVID-19? This far exceeds anything that we ever envisioned, or any problem we would have to address. But by working together and organizing ourselves, I think we’ve been able to at least handle this situation in a very professional way to be able to limit exposure to our residents and visitors.”

Meehan noted both residents and visitors should remain vigilant as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. He encouraged people to follow the orders put in place by state and local governments and to wear a mask.

“It’s a very difficult time and it’s tough sometimes to get everybody to comply,” he said. “But the more people that think not about themselves but about others, the more successful we will be in moving Maryland forward.”

Officials this week noted their efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 in recent months. In March, for example, Meehan closed the beach and Boardwalk and urged visitors to stay away from Ocean City. And in April, Worcester County followed the resort’s lead by restricting non-essential short-term rentals.

“It kept people from bringing it to Worcester County and spreading it. It also allowed us to keep our hospitals free for Worcester County residents in case they needed it,” Joe Mitrecic, president of the Worcester County Commissioners, said this week. “The success of our close alliances is in the evidence of our county’s increased testing capacity and continued low transmission rates.”

AGH President/CEO Michael Franklin said the hospital opened its first testing site at the Townsend Medical Center in March. To date, the hospital has conducted more than 1,700 COVID-19 tests at that one location. He added the facility has worked with both state and local partners to assist with drive-thru testing locations, staffing and the distribution of personal protective equipment, which has prevented the transmission of the virus.

“It’s all about the community and how the community works together,” he said. “One of the key successes coming out of this COVID crisis is the fact that the COVID-19 problem has accelerated the mindset that health and safety is everybody’s responsibility.”

On Wednesday, the Worcester County Health Department partnered with the Maryland Department of Health to distribute free masks at the West Ocean City Park and Ride, complementing a regularly scheduled COVID-19 testing event at the site.

State Sen. Mary Beth Carozza said the “#MasksOnMaryland” campaign demonstrates the importance of partnerships and cooperation.

“None of us today would have thought we’d be spending our August at this event with masks on at the Park and Ride in West Ocean City,” she said. “But here we are because together, with strong partners and with the people we have in place, we are going to be on the road to the COVID-19 recovery.”

Free testing sites are available at the Pocomoke Health Center on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. and at the West Ocean City Park and Ride on Mondays and Wednesdays between 8:30 a.m. and noon. Patients do not need to exhibit symptoms or suspect exposure in order to be tested. A doctor’s order is not required to get tested, but appointments are required.

A COVID-19 testing event will also take place Aug. 21 and Aug. 22 from 8 a.m. to noon at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center in Ocean City.

To schedule an appointment, call 410-632-1100 and select option 8.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.