More than 2,000 people tested for Coronavirus

More than 2,000 essential workers – most of them employees of local poultry plants — and their family members were tested for Covid-19 over the weekend as part of a multi-state effort to control the spread of the virus in Delmarva chicken processing plants.

The Wicomico County Health Department reported that 2,139 people were tested at a drive-through clinic at Arthur W. Perdue Stadium on May 1 and 2.

Everyone who was tested will be contacted within the next couple of days with their results, health officials said.

The per-capita case rate in Wicomico County is the fourth-highest in the state, with the majority of infections in poultry workers. Gov. Larry Hogan said there were 279 confirmed coronavirus cases in the state associated with poultry workers as of last week. That number does not include any of the workers tested over the weekend.

“These outbreaks are not only a serious public health concern, they’re also a potential threat to Maryland’s leading agricultural industry and to our nation’s essential food supply chain,” Hogan said during a news conference last week.

Hogan, along with Delaware Gov. John Carney and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, appealed to Vice President Mike Pence for help from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

“At my request, a CDC field team has arrived on the ground and is working closely with state and local health officials on a comprehensive public health plan for the Eastern Shore poultry industry,” Hogan said.

The effort led to the mass testing event over the weekend in Salisbury and a community testing site in Caroline County. State health officials also were working with Perdue to establish a testing regimen at the Salisbury plant.

Hogan said state health officials also plan to conduct contact tracing and outreach in positive cases.

“We have convened a Delmarva Poultry Production Task Force meeting between Maryland, Delaware and Virginia as part of our multi-state, multi-agency response,” Hogan said. “This remains a rapidly evolving situation, and we will continue to keep Eastern Shore residents informed about these outbreaks in their area.”

Outbreaks have occurred at the Perdue plant in Salisbury as well as Mountaire and Allen Harim plants in Delaware. Employees often work in close proximity at the processing plants and can easily spread the virus to one another. From there, workers can then infect people in their households.

Reopen Maryland Protest

In spite of the growing numbers of Covid-19 cases on the Eastern Shore, a group called Reopen Maryland staged a road rally on May 2 from Frederick to Salisbury in protest of the state’s school and business closings. 

“We are committed to peaceful, law-abiding advocacy for public health measures that respect Marylanders’ civil rights, economic well-being and educational access,” the group said on its Facebook page. “We support immediate, responsible reopening of our state’s business, educational and religious institutions.”

In his daily coronavirus briefing on Saturday, Mayor Jake Day said that 42 vehicles were followed by Maryland State Police along the route from western Maryland to the Eastern Shore. About 20 more local vehicles joined in.

Day said city police blocked entry to the Centre at Salisbury parking lot at the request of the mall owner, and protesters were told they could congregate along Centre Drive past the restaurants. Instead, they chose to meet at the Kohl’s parking lot, he said.

The protesters were joined by U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., who spoke to the crowd, wearing a face shield before and after his remarks. 

“We need to have a voice of reason as we go forward and restore our freedoms and liberties and that were given to us – not by the United States government, not by the state of Maryland, not by the city of Salisbury – but by God,” Harris said.

Day said the rally organizer and members of Harris’ staff were warned by police that protesters were in violation of the state’s social distancing law and would be arrested if they did not comply. The group spread out and then left about five minutes later.

While everyone wants the entire country to reopen, Day said it is still not safe to do so while the virus is still spreading.

“Clearly some folks believe their right to gather is more important than public health and the health of vulnerable individuals,” he said.

Helpful Coronavirus links

Maryland Department of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage

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