Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) issued an executive order on Sunday directing nursing homes in the state to adopt procedures to fight the spread of the coronavirus, including the establishment of quarantine wards for infected residents.
In a news release on the governor's website, Hogan stressed that criminal penalties would be levied against nursing home staff or facilities that disobeyed the order, which also directs all staffers to wear personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves.
“As we have been saying for several weeks, older Marylanders and those with underlying health conditions are more vulnerable and at a significantly higher risk of contracting, getting more severely ill, and dying from this disease,” said Hogan.
"Of major concern is that we currently have cases or clusters of cases at 81 nursing homes and long-term care facilities across the state. Our highest priority is keeping Marylanders safe, and we will use every tool at our disposal to protect the most vulnerable among us," he added.
Nursing homes in Maryland have become minor hotspots for the disease. In one nursing home in Mt. Airy, nine patients have died and at least 99 others including staff have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to The Washington Post.
Those found to have knowingly violated the order will be subject to prosecution for a misdemeanor offense with a penalty of up to one year in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Maryland health officials have confirmed more than 3,600 cases of the virus and 67 deaths from the disease.