Kent County Health Officer William Webb reports the Kent County Commissioners, Tuesday, May 26

Another 18 incidents of COVID-19 in Kent over the last week show a spike in “community spread” infections — reversing a trend that pointed to nursing home outbreaks for a majority of the cases here.

The spike in community spread COVID-19 coincides with the launch of Gov. Larry Hogan’s Stage 1 of Maryland Strong Roadmap to Recovery on May 15, which reopened retail businesses at 50 percent capacity.

“As we open back up again we know that community spread cases are going to grow,” said Kent Health Officer William Webb in a brief interview. “This is an indication of what’s to come.”

Between May 18 and  May 25, only three news cases were reported in nursing facilities but 15 were reported as “community spread,” Webb said.  

This is in contrast to the previous week when only five of the 20 new cases were community spread and the rest were attributed to nursing homes and the agricultural community.

“I remind all citizens that reopening does not mean that COVID-19 is behind us and I encourage everyone not to become complacent with practices that have kept us safe,” he said hours earlier in a briefing to the Kent County Commissioners.  “I anticipate our infection numbers to climb. With increasing social interactions, the virus will find new hosts and avenues for spread.”

On Saturday, May 16, many retailers in Chestertown’s historic district re-opened their doors to shoppers after six weeks of lockdown under Hogan’s emergency stay-at-home order.

Webb reiterated that wearing masks, frequent hand washing and social distancing were paramount to slowing the spread of the virus.

The new community spread cases are also documented after recent concerns from a retired local epidemiologist, who warned that new cases were still climbing and that conditions hadn’t been met to begin Stage 1 of the state’s economic recovery plan.

But Webb said Hogan’s initial “lockdown order” was meant to prepare for more cases.

“Keeping everybody locked down indefinitely is not the solution for this,” he said in an interview. “The main reason for flattening the curve and keeping everybody inside was to prepare our health care community for when it starts to really spread.”

“We know the virus is going to spread and we just have to do the very best to keep the spread as minimal as possible,” he said.

Webb announced to the commissioners that the regional testing site at Chesapeake College will close on June 5 and a new testing site is coming to Kent at the county roads facility on Morgenc Road beginning June 8.

Testing will require an appointment and a doctor’s order and will take place on Monday and Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Webb said the site would operate for about “a month or six weeks” and have the capacity to administer up to 60 tests per week. He said the health department will serve as a stop gag to deal with underserved areas and hotspots that  break out in the county.

“The good news is we have testing kits,” he said. “We are going to step into the breach and provide the testing needs on a short-term basis.”

He said the testing will be time limited to allow labs, the hospital and other health providers the time to bring their testing capacity “up to speed.”