By CHHS Extern Emma Evans Eiden
Just one week after announcing Maryland’s first three cases of COVID-19, Maryland has identified its first community transmission case of the virus bringing the total number of COVID-19 cases to 12. A Prince George’s county resident, with no travel outside of the state, tested positive on Wednesday.
During a Thursday afternoon press conference, Governor Hogan announced major updates to Maryland’s COVID-19 response plan. MEMA is elevated to its highest activation level. The Governor issued an executive order to activate the National Guard. All nonessential state employees will enter telework duty, if eligible, and public access to state buildings will be restricted. Maryland prisons will be closed to all visitors. The Governor has also ordered all senior activity centers to close.
Governor Hogan also issued a state-wide prohibition on events and gatherings of over 250 people. All certifications and permit expiration dates, including for driver’s licenses, will be extended until after the state of emergency ends. Hospitals must implement new visitor policies, including a one visitor limit per patient, no minor visitors, and no visitors who have recently traveled internationally. The Governor urged that essential services, such as grocery stores and gas stations, should remain open.
State Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Karen Salmon, announced state-wide school closures beginning Monday, March 16 through Friday, March 27. Plans are in process to ensure that free-and-reduced meals will continue and to ensure childcare for essential emergency response personnel.
Maryland Department of Health Deputy Secretary Fran Phillips outlined three goals for what she described as these “extraordinary measures”: slow the spread of infection, protect vulnerable people, and maintain essential services. Dr. David Marcozzi of the University of Maryland Medical Center endorsed the Governor’s plan and recommended that similar measures for the private sector. Dr. Marcozzi also assured the public that the health system is prepared to handle care for all individuals requiring care.
MDH issued a letter to clinicians on Wednesday, March 11 urging patient evaluation via phone or other telemedicine platforms. Any patient with respiratory symptoms should immediately receive a facemask. COVID-19 testing is now available in commercial and hospital settings, and providers should direct samples to those sites whenever possible.
The MDH loading dock will remain open on Saturday and Sunday to accept COVID-19 test samples. MDH is no longer reporting the number of processed samples and negative results. Of the 12 positive cases, two patients remain hospitalized. Three patients have fully recovered and have passed the required quarantine window.