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COVID-19 Upends Life and Business in Garrett County

Updated: Apr 10, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has caused massive changes in daily life across the nation as people learn to social distance and adopt stringent hygiene practices to quell the spread of the menacing disease. On March 28 a reported 992 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Maryland – a 28 percent increase in just one day. The fifth person to die from the coronavirus in Maryland was an Anne Arundel County man in his 80s, the state health department announced Friday night.

Garrett County remains at 3 reported cases for COVID-19 with the Health Department rescinding an earlier reported case that was tested outside of the county, however, that forth case is recovering in Garrett County, according to Commissioner Paul Edwards.

"Our efforts seem to be working as we continue to move forward," said Edwards during a March 27th Facebook video post. He's pleased to report that the diagnosed cases appear to be stable at the present time.

"We need to stay diligent and continue social distancing," Edwards reinforces by noting neighboring counties of Bedford, PA and Preston, WV are also reporting new positive cases for the virus.

Local agencies and health care providers have been thrust into the daunting task of informing people to follow safety guidelines to contain the virus while allowing essential businesses to remain open that supply food, staples, and health care services. Just one day following Edward's address, the Garrett County Health Department released a total of COVID-19 tests taken with more than half of the tests still awaiting results.

COVID19 testing sites located in Garrett County processed specimens on 109 individuals. According to the Health Department, these individuals reside mainly in Garrett County but some have been processed on out-of-county residents. Among the specimens collected on Garrett County residents, there have been 50 negative results and three positive results. Of the remaining 56 specimens, the vast majority are still pending. Some of these undefined results represent individuals who reside elsewhere. Under current procedures, local health departments everywhere are notified of positive and negative results only on the individuals who reside in their county.

Planning beyond the current crisis, Commissioner Edwards announced a cooperative small business loan program that was just launch between Garrett County Economic Development and Garrett County Development Corp. The initiative will free up $200 thousand in increments of $5 thousand loans for businesses with 10 or fewer employees. These loans will be for service businesses or a restaurant of any size, which Edwards describes as those most in need of assistance.

"We know there are plenty of federal and state programs out there that are for businesses to try to remain solvent," said Edwards. "That will take a while to get to people. We're hoping this will be a quicker turnaround to get much-needed cash in the small businesses right away."

One of the stipulations when applying for a loan through this new program is that the business be "native" to Garrett County. "We're trying very hard to keep our businesses going as best as we can," Edwards emphasized.

Edwards also praised Garrett College President, Richard Midcap for stepping up to offer their facility to host a blood drive in the next few weeks. The Red Cross has been struggling to meet demands with the virus outbreak and the college is centrally located and convenient to most residents within the county, Edwards noted. With continuing education classes currently on hold, the Allied Health program at the college donated much-needed medical supplies to Garrett Regional Medical Center to assist with shortages.

"This is just another example of Garrett County coming together to help out in this time of need," said Edwards.

Besides nonessential businesses being shuttered, Garrett County public schools were ordered closed through April 24 during Governor Hogan's press conference held March 25. Edwards commended area teachers for adapting to the order by reaching out to their students, keeping them engaged, and following through with wellness checks during the closures.

"I say all the time, we have the best school system around and this is evidence to that." Edwards said. "A tip of the cap to all the teachers out there continuing to try to educate our kids and doing the best job that they can with the limitations we have right now."

Edwards and his fellow Commissioners issued and executive order on March 22 declaring a local state of emergency to take effect by 5:00 p.m. that day for the duration of 30 days, at which time it will be subject to renewal. During a video broadcast, Edwards was joined by representatives from the Garrett County Health Department, Garrett Regional Medical Center, and Emergency Services.

The emergency measure enables local departments to utilize services to provide for area residents impacted by the virus and allow the enforcement of health recommendations to quell the spread of COVID-19. Edwards expressed his gratitude for everyone's work to oversee and manage the emergency at hand. With no clear end in sight, additional virtual addresses can be expected.

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