Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Thursday that all public schools will close for two weeks and gatherings of more than 250 people are prohibited after a Prince George’s County man was diagnosed as state’s first case of community-transmitted coronavirus.
During a press conference, Hogan said the man in his 60s “had no known exposure to coronavirus through travel or an infected individual” — a pivotal development for the state during the pandemic’s early stages, as Maryland’s 11 previous confirmed coronavirus cases had all recently traveled or had contact with a carrier.
The man is in critical but stable condition at a hospital.
Under a directive from state schools Superintendent Karen Salmon, the two-week school shutdown will begin Monday, Hogan said. The governor also activated the National Guard and ordered all nonessential state employees to telework if possible.
Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said Thursday at the county’s Emergency Operations Center in Landover that the infected man, who is the county’s fourth known case, may have come in contact with 12 firefighters.
County officials said they will follow all health protocols and continue to gather information on the incident.
“We are working with the health department to make sure that we investigating the entire incident,” said Fire Chief Tiffany Green. “All 12 firefighters are at home and they are self-quarantined.”
Prince George’s officials urged residents to look out for one another, especially those 60 and older, whom the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said are most at risk.
Ernest Carter, the county’s chief health officer, stressed for residents who show any symptoms such as a temperature at 100.4 or higher, coughing and shortness of breath contact their health care provider.
Carter also stressed practicing “social distancing,” which includes people staying at least six feet away from each other and residents helping senior citizens to purchase groceries or pick up medication.
“One thing I must emphasize — we must continue to practice excellent and consistent personal hygiene,” he said. “Look out for each other. [The coronavirus] is resilient, [but] so are we, as long as we take care of ourselves and each other.”
On Thursday evening, Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO Monica Goldson will lead a telephone town hall at 6:30 p.m. in regard to the novel coronavirus, also called COVID-19.
Because of a person affiliated with Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt and College Park Academy had “close contact” with someone who traveled to a country under a high-risk coronavirus warning, both schools closed Thursday and will stay closed Friday for cleaning and sanitizing.