HealthWilliam J. Ford

Maryland Governor Creates Coronavirus Response Team

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Monday the state will create a seven-member coronavirus response team comprised of medical and emergency experts to advise the state on how to respond and handle a virus which now has nine confirmed cases statewide.

During a press conference in Annapolis, Hogan also issued a mandatory order for state employees to not travel out-of-state and for state agencies to institute a period of telework for some employees “to limit the spread of the virus.”

In addition, he received information after a 90-minute meeting with Vice President Mike Pence and “top-ranking” federal officials that adults 60 and older should avoid gatherings or events with large crowds. During a second conference call, also on Monday, with governors from across the nation, employees in the healthcare industry who assist individuals who reside at nursing homes and retirement communities received instruction to closely monitor patients and residents for fevers or respiratory-related symptoms.

Hogan said state health officials planned to meet with representatives from the long-term care industry Tuesday on ways to better protect themselves from exposure and how to handle those who test positive for the virus.

The governor stated that unlike the elderly, children and young adults are less like to contract the virus, formally labeled COVID-19.

“This problem continues to escalate rapidly. Information is changing not only on a daily basis but on an hourly, almost minute-to-minute basis,” Hogan said. “We can expect the numbers to continue to rise.”

New Cases in Maryland Increase Public Concerns

The two newest Maryland cases deal with a woman in her 80s from Harford County who contracted the virus while on travel to Turkey and currently remains hospitalized in a state facility.

“This appears to be the first case of COVID-19 anywhere in the world to be associated with travel to Turkey,” Hogan said.

The other person health officials confirmed as case-positive is a man in his 60s from Montgomery County who contracted the virus while on travel to Thailand and Egypt. He remained in the hospital for a short period of time and has since been quarantined.

“In addition, the Maryland Department of Health has determined there is no connection between these two individuals and the three positive cases that were confirmed last week,” Hogan said. “All of our cases are related to foreign travel. So far, we have no cases of transmission here in the state of Maryland.”

Meanwhile, Hogan said 12 Marylanders remain aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship that has been docked in San Francisco for close to five days. Twenty-one of the 3,500 people onboard became infected with COVID-19. Although the Marylanders have not exhibited any symptoms, Hogan says they’re being transferred to military bases in Texas and Georgia for examination and to be placed under quarantine.

Six other Marylanders who traveled on the same Egyptian cruise ship between Feb. 19 and March 4 will all be tested for COVID-19 with two now exhibiting symptoms, Hogan added.

The other three residents announced last week traveled on the same ship.

As of Tuesday, more than 119,00 people in more than 100 countries have been infected with the virus which started in China while more than 4,269 people have died, according to the World Health Organization. In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control confirm more than 971 positive cases and 30 deaths.

Before Monday’s press conference, Hogan signed emergency legislation with House Speaker Adrienne Jones and Senate President Bill Ferguson to use up to $50 million in the state’s rainy day fund to combat the coronavirus.

“It’s very easy to drop into a tribal mentality, a fear of the other,” Ferguson said. “This is the time like none other in Maryland…we are doing things that are reasonable to protect Maryland’s future.”

Prince George’s Confirms Three Cases of Virus

Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks announced at a press conference Tuesday, March 10, the majority-Black jurisdiction has three confirmed cases of the COVID-19. The statewide total now rises to nine.

Alsobrooks said a couple from the county who contracted the virus while on an overseas cruise remain self-quarantined at home and “are in good condition.”

The first case announced by the state Health Department on Monday confirmed a county resident in her 50s who contracted the virus during a trip to Boston between Feb. 25-27.

Alsobrooks says the woman remains in good condition and does not have children in the school system. Family members residing with her similarly remain quarantined and in good condition.

Meanwhile, a person from New Jersey who tested positive for the coronavirus attended the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) between Feb. 25-29 at the Gaylord Hotel at National Harbor. The State of New Jersey has taken the lead of the ongoing investigation with assistance from Maryland.

About 353 county police officers detailed to the conference have not yet shown any symptoms, said Police Chief Hank Stawinski.

Any county resident who attended or worked during the conference, as well as those who display any symptoms connected to the virus including a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher, coughing and shortness of breath, should contact their health care provider, said Ernest Carter, the county’s chief health officer.

To minimize risk, county agencies will assess which employees can telework from home. Hand sanitizer stations will be placed in county buildings, the county’s “The Bus” will be cleaned twice a day with coronavirus information distributed at nursing stations and retirement communities.

Alsobrooks said she and county leaders planned to hold a conference call Tuesday afternoon with faith leaders in a county which houses an estimated 800 houses of worship.

As a safety precaution, the county’s 35th annual Women’s History Month Luncheon, scheduled for March 26 that regularly attracts between 1,300 and 1,500 people, has been postponed. A Census block party slated for March 28 has also been postponed.

“We’re doing this out of an abundance of caution,” said Alsobrooks, who added many seniors attend the popular Women’s History Month event.

UMMS Announces Changes to Visitors Policy

Meanwhile, the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) announced Tuesday it will start visitor policy changes to its 13 hospital and health care facilities in response to COVID-19.

Starting Wednesday, March 11, all visitors much check in at the front desk. With the exception to visiting a parent, no one younger than 18 will be allowed to visit any hospital, clinic or urgent care facility; only one adult will be allowed per patient for all areas of a hospital; visitors may be screened for flu-like symptoms and cannot visit a hospital if symptoms are present; and anyone who traveled overseas may not visit a location for 14 days after their arrival back to the U.S.

“The coronavirus disease poses several challenges to an extended family presence at a patient’s bedside including potential spread of the virus to patients and staff by those with asymptomatic or mild infection,” David Marcozzi, a COVID-19 incident commander for UMMS, said in a statement.

“Enacting these changes to visitation is consistent with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding response to the coronavirus,” he said.

For more information for those living in Prince George’s County, call 301-883-6627 or go to http://health.mypgc.us/coronavirus.

Maryland residents with any health issues should call their health care provider or the Maryland Emergency Management Agency call center at 410-517-3720 or may also visit the following website: http://health.maryland.gov/coronavirus.

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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