As of April 2, there were 206 positive COVID-19 cases in Anne Arundel County.
“In Anne Arundel County, the government is doing good things, but I don’t want to sugarcoat what’s actually happening in our community,” said County Executive Steuart Pittman in a virtual town meeting on March 21. “I’ve spent the week listening and it's clear to me that people are hurting.”
Pittman is also advising county residents not to hoard food and other household goods. At this time, there is no reason to believe Anne Arundel County or Maryland will have any shortages in food. “There is a clear issue with too many people being in a grocery store at once,” he said.
Of Maryland’s 2,331 cases, 81 people have been released from isolation, and there have been 36 deaths.
Fifty-five of the cases were in the under-20 population, 1,604 people were 20 to 59 years old and 672 people were 60 or older.
People who are 65 years and older and those with underlying medical issues are most at risk.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) currently acknowledge shortness of breath, fever and a dry cough as symptoms of COVID-19.
The COVID-19 symptoms are similar to the flu and the common cold and could appear anywhere between two to 14 days after contracting the virus. People who are having trouble breathing should call their doctor before they go to the emergency room.
“Not all shortness of breath is COVID-19,” said Anne Arundel County Health Officer Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman. “It is still flu season, so we want to make that assessment as we can.”
Anne Arundel County is experiencing a shortage of tests. Currently, the county is asking people to call their doctors or the health department for screening to determine if they need a test. Tests are being administered to high-risk citizens, those who have traveled and people who have had fevers for more than 72 hours and severe symptoms first. People experiencing symptoms should call their primary care doctor or the health department to determine if they need to be tested.
Drive-thru testing, which should be available in Maryland soon, will be the most effective way to discover the virus for citizens and medical care workers.
The shortage of tests comes from the lack of testing methods that are available at the federal level. There are many private companies working with the federal government to mass-produce tests.
Currently, test results are expected to come back between four and seven days. The health department is working to speed up the process, but there is not enough testing equipment to keep up with the number of tests.
“It's a game of trying to keep up with as many tests as we try to do,” Kalyanaraman said. “Can we make sure we can process them? That is the delay we are seeing.”
Hospitals in Anne Arundel County are working on increasing surge capacity, which refers to the number of beds and ventilators available. Steps have been taken to cancel all elective surgeries and turn recovery and operating rooms into emergency rooms.
Taking preventive measures will slow the rate at which cases come into the hospitals. Currently, hospitals are receiving cases at a high rate. The slower the disease spreads, the better the health care system can handle it.
“Think back to just a few days ago when you go to the grocery store and the aisles are empty because everyone went there at once,” Kalyanaraman said. “Now imagine if we do that to our hospitals. That is a dangerous situation.”
The health department advises all residents to wash their hands frequently, cover their coughs, avoid sharing, avoid touching their face or others and use hand sanitizer with 60% alcohol. It is not advised that people wear masks unless they are sick. A mask will only prevent the illness from spreading to other people and it will not keep the virus away.
“Those are the steps that you can take and each one of those steps decreases our risk,” Kalyanaraman said. “It's hard. We are not used to thinking about every single action you take and that is what we are asking you to do.”
The health department continues to ask Anne Arundel County residents to practice social distancing. People are asked to limit their circle of people and to keep it constant.
“It may seem like it's not important and the question we get is, ‘How can my action be so important?’” Kalyanaraman said. “Everything about this virus that we are focused on now is slowing it down. There is no vaccine at this time. There is no treatment at this time. What we have is individual actions and government actions to slow the spread of the virus.”
People should stay six feet away from one another, but they are encouraged to go on walks and spend time outside.
What Else Can You Do From Home?
To alleviate the health department of some non-medical calls, Pittman established the EOC (Emergency Operation Center) in Glen Burnie. The EOC is responsible for donations, communication and connecting residents with the department of the government that will best fill their non-medical needs during this pandemic. Medical supply donations are in high demand. For this reason, monetary donations are also being accepted through the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County. Residents who do not have medical supplies still have an opportunity to help medical care workers to restock.
“We are all in this together, everywhere in the world,” Pittman said. “We will learn from this. We will recover together.”