Updated: Apr 5, 2020
Drive-thru testing in Glen Burnie --Zip code case lookup coming--Bishop's encouraging words
Upwards of 350 viewers tuned in at one point to the weekly hour-long livestream of Ann Arundel County COVID-19 question-and-answer session, Wednesday, April 1. Viewers were informed that a zip code directory of recorded COVID-19 cases may be available soon for residents, and that COVID-19 drive-thru testing is available in Glen Burnie.
The online session was livestreamed over the county health department’s Facebook page. Residents asked questions to county leaders, who included Anne Arundel County Health Officer Nilesh Kalyanaraman, M.D., president of United Black Clergy of Anne Arundel County (UBCAAC) Bishop Larry Thomas, and the county’s deputy director of behavioral health services Tracy Shulden.
One person asked why the county hadn’t provided more information on where people diagnosed with the virus resided, so that other residents could properly social distance from them.
“We are now looking at providing some data by zip codes and we're looking to do that in the next few days,” We always want to (have) that balance between privacy for individuals, and providing enough information for the public to manage their health. So we'll have that information by the zip code we're hoping in the next few days. And we will put that up on our website once we have that.”
Kalyanaram said that the department is beefing up its ability to do more contact tracing. According to the World Health Organization, contact tracing involves, identifying, listing and following up with people who have been in contact with an infected person.
He said normally the department only does contact tracing for a handful of people each month, but that number is growing each day now.
“We are ramping our staff to be able to do that, to be able to do over 100 new cases per day,” he said.“That is a tremendous amount. That is our commitment to being able to stop the spread of this disease.”
He reiterated though that the most important element of preventing and slowing the spread of COVID-19 was social distancing. Social distancing is the act of creating physical distance between people in order to prevent the spread of contagious disease. Governor Hogan gave a stay-at-home order to many state residents Monday, March 30.
To diagnose county residents who are infected the state and county set up two new testing sites this week. One is a drive-thru site at the state’s vehicle’s emissions inspection program (VEIP) location in Glen Burnie.
It opened for the first time on March 30 for limited hours. Testing at these locations requires a medical provider’s consent, or government assistance.
“That's Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays,” Kalyanaram said. “I was there on Monday. I was there today as well. On Monday, I believe we did eight tests. And we had many more scheduled when I was there just from 10 to 11 o'clock. So that site is up and running and that's really exciting. The Glen Burnie site is really focused on getting as many people through as possible.”
There is also a new testing site through the county health department that focuses on on testing patients who need assistance, such as the uninsured, those without a primary care provider and the disabled, among others.
The number to call to be screened for testing is 410-222-7256.
AAC Bishop's Reflections
Bishop Thomas answered questions revolving largely around how the religious community in the county had both been impacted by emergency, and yet were called to do what they could do to help others at this difficult time.
“There's hope still on the way,” he said, “So people could be looking for hope, and the church represents that, the faith community represents that. Let’s keep giving people hope.”
As well as being president of UBCAAC, Thomas is pastor at Empowering Believers Church of Apostles Faith in Glen Burnie.
He recognized that some members of faith communities in the county were confronting the challenge of living out their faith through good work, while being constricted by many mandates by the government.
With Palm Sunday coming up April 5, which is the start of the Christian Easter season’s culminating Holy Week, he has heard congregant’s concerns about being able to practice the rituals and traditions of the season. One of those is the handing out of palm fronds, which were said in the Bible to have been used to welcome Jesus into Jerusalem before he was crucified.
“Well, we won't be able to see you, but we'll be able to say something to you and continue to encourage you to hold on to your faith,” he said. “And even like on Palm Sunday, on this date that we give out the palms people say, ‘Bishop, are you going to have the palms?’ I say yes, I'm going to have some palms for people. We have to try to (be) strategic.
“We will be able to hug one another again," he said. "We will be able to shake one another’s hands again, We will be able to go back to the to the malls, and to the churches. What a day...a rejoicing that would be. We always make a statement: This too shall pass. So for all those that are watching, just remember, we are going through it. And we're going to come out with victory.”
Kalyanagram on kindness
Kalyanaram said that the scheduled Wednesday Q&A events were likely to be a reoccurring throughout the ongoing emergency.
Thus far, Q&A sessions have taken place at 3 pm, and can be accessed by going to the county health department’s website and clicking the Facebook icon. Livestreaming is available on the health department’s Facebook page when the event takes place.
The health officer concluded the event by asking residents to be kind to one another
"My last thoughts are to be kind to others,” he said. “This is a trying time for all of us. We each have the ability to offer empathy and kindness to others.”