Kent County recorded 51 new cases of COVID-19 in the past week, bringing the county’s total to 67.
The climb from 16 cases to 67 since April 19, represents a near 320 percent increase in new infections.
The spike early in the week was due to an outbreak of infections at the Autumn Lake Healthcare facility on Morgnec Road in Chestertown. On Monday the Kent County Health Department reported 15 cases at the facility; three of the 15 cases were workers and one elderly resident died from the virus.
The facility currently houses 72 residents.
On Tuesday the Kent Pilot learned that a substantial number of eight new cases in the county were also attributed to Autumn Lake facility, but the Kent County Health Department would not confirm the exact number of infections — because early Tuesday morning the state had just issued new guidance that restricted disclosure of outbreaks at nursing facilities.
Kent County Health Officer William Webb commented that “there are more nursing facilities in the state with outbreaks than there are without outbreaks.”
“We’re still in the middle of this and we’re not quite sure if this is the peak or not,” he said.
It is estimated that approximately 20 COVID-19 infections are associated with the Autumn Lake facility, and testing continues.
Later in the week health officials confirmed an outbreak at an egg farm in the northern part of Kent County, where it was confirmed that agricultural workers there had tested positive for the virus.
“We’re wrestling with multiple outbreaks in the county and advise that the public take this seriously and follow the established recommendations of social distancing, frequent hand washing and wearing a mask in public,” Webb said.
Web said the county “was reaching out to and advocating for the affected farm workers” to educate them on the safety protocols, such as frequent handwashing, social distancing and wearing face coverings in public.
How the new infections are documented will depend on where the individual farm workers live. Many of the workers live in the northern part of Kent — and in Cecil and Queen Anne’s Counties. Some live and work in the poultry industry in Delaware and cross state lines to work in Maryland.
Another official in the County said this was a problem affecting the Delmarva Peninsula and that agencies of all three states were working cooperatively to stop the spread of the virus.
“Maryland is now working with Delaware and Virginia to combat this because they realize these processing plants are a multi-state issue because the workers are frequently moving across state lines,” the official said. The official said the workers are being implored to seek medical attention if they exhibit any symptoms of the virus and to stay home if they are sick.
Statewide data as of Saturday, April 25.