Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency Thursday amid the global coronavirus outbreak after the state confirmed three people from Montgomery County contracted the potentially deadly virus while on travel overseas.
Hogan said at a press conference at the State House in Annapolis that all three people, a married couple in their 70s and a woman in her 50s, are in “good condition.” The couple and woman aren’t related.
All three are quarantined in their homes in the D.C. suburbs and Montgomery County, Maryland’s biggest jurisdiction of about 1 million people. Portions of Montgomery border Prince George’s County, the state’s second-largest county with an estimated 900,000 residents.
“Our administration’s highest priority is keeping our residents safe,” Hogan said. “While today’s news may seem overwhelming, this is not a reason to panic. Marylanders should go to work or go to school just as they normally do.”
Deputy health secretary Fran Phillips said the three people checked into a local hospital with flu-like symptoms after returning home from travel Feb. 20, but their conditions weren’t considered life-threatening and all were discharged.
Because they traveled overseas, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention informed state officials Tuesday all three people needed to be tested. On Wednesday, the three people were tested at a facility and the state received the results Thursday afternoon.
“They are very cooperative,” Phillips said. “They are in isolation now. They are not leaving their homes. We are in very frequent contact with them.”
Meanwhile, public information officer Barry Hudson said in an email Thursday night a press conference will be held 10 a.m. Friday.
Before Hogan’s announcement, the state health department reported 17 people tested were negative for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, with 14 other cases pending.
Symptoms of the respiratory illness include fever, cough and shortness of breath. The CDC has issued an advisory to avoid all nonessential travel to China.
As of Thursday evening, more than 220 cases have been confirmed in the U.S. with 12 deaths, including a 72-year-old person in Sunnyvale, California, who died earlier in the day. The other 11 deaths were in Washington state.
So far, health officials in Virginia and Washington, D.C., have not reported any cases. A total of 24 patients have tested negative for the coronavirus, with another five cases pending.
In Maryland, Hogan submitted a fiscal year 2021 supplemental budget with $10 million set aside for coronavirus preparedness expenses that include purchasing new equipment, providing wraparound services for quarantined individuals and distributing communication materials.
In addition, the budget calls for using some of the state’s $50 million rainy day fund toward the coronavirus.
“Given the rapidly, evolving nature of this threat to public health, it is critical that we have the flexibility to immediately access these resources,” Hogan said Wednesday.
A joint statement from the state’s presiding officers, House Speaker Adrienne Jones and Senate President Bill Ferguson, declared support for the governor in this effort.
“We want to thank the governor and the Department of Health for their quick response and focus on these cases and are ready to work together to confront this issue and make sure to align the best public response in a calm and collected manner,” they said. “We have the best health professionals in the world and have complete confidence in the ability of the medical community and the state and local governments to work together to contain the effects of the COVID-19 virus.”
Because there’s currently no vaccine, health officials have posted tips to help avoid getting the virus: wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, avoid people who are sick, stay home if sick, cover one’s mouth when coughing and use a tissue when sneezing.