ANNAPOLIS, MD — All Maryland public schools have been ordered closed for two weeks, and the National Guard has been activated to help fight the coronavirus, Gov. Larry Hogan said at a Thursday afternoon news conference.
Hogan has signed executive orders to help combat the outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus, including the closure of Baltimore’s cruise ship terminal and the shutdown of large events.
All public schools in Maryland will be closed Monday through March 27, and all buildings and buses will be cleaned to stop the spread of the virus before students and staff return. The days before spring break will be used as makeup days. Plans are in the works to provide meals to students who depend on them.
Schools will be open on normal hours on Friday, March 13. Teachers will spend the day reviewing lessons for the next two weeks. Dr. Karen Salmon, state school superintendent, said that school will instead be in session on days previously designated for Easter/spring break. For most districts, that means classes will be held around Easter on April 9, 10 and 13 to make up some of the days lost to the two-week closure.
Daily life shouldn’t come to a halt, Hogan said, and essential businesses such as grocery stores, gas stations and restaurants should remain open. But one of his actions prohibits any gatherings of 250 people or more.
“This problem continues to evolve and will escalate rapidly and dramatically,” Hogan said. “For Marylanders, the actions I have announced here today will be disruptive to your everyday lives. They may seem extreme, and they may sound frightening. But they could be the difference in saving lives and keeping people safe.”
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The full list of actions Hogan announced are:
RAISING MEMA ACTIVATION LEVEL TO FULL: Maryland Emergency Management will move to its highest activation level to mobilize all state resources and coordinate response resources with counties and local officials.
ACTIVATION OF NATIONAL GUARD: The National Guard is activated to move to its highest state of readiness. It’s not clear which units will be called on, but it won’t be the entire Guard, Hogan said. Some units may respond to medical needs, while some will help with food transport.
PROHIBITION ON MASS GATHERINGS AND CLOSURE OF SENIOR CENTERS: Effective immediately, gatherings of more than 250 people, including social, community, spiritual, religious, recreational, leisure, and sporting gatherings, are prohibited at all locations and venues.
CLOSURE OF SCHOOLS: State Superintendent Karen Salmon said starting March 16, all schools throughout Maryland will close through Friday, March 27.
CLOSURE OF CRUISE TERMINAL AT PORT OF BALTIMORE: No passenger or crew member will be allowed to disembark at any terminal at the Port of Baltimore from any passenger vessel that has made a call at port outside of the United States since Jan. 31. The Baltimore cruise ship terminal will close until further notice.
The only exceptions are the Carnival Pride and the RCL Grandeur of the Seas, which are due to return to port in the coming days, provided that no person on board such vessel has a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 or is under investigation for the virus.
EXTENSION OF PERMITTING DEADLINES: Because renewing expiring permits or licenses often requires the public to enter public buildings and interact with state employees, all licenses, permits, registrations, and other authorizations issued by state agencies that would expire during the current state of emergency will be extended until the 30th day after the state of emergency is lifted. Read the executive order.
HOSPITAL VISITATION POLICIES: Hospitals should limit visitation, including:
SUSPENSION OF VISITS TO CORRECTIONAL FACILITIES: The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services is suspending all visits to its correctional facilities effective immediately. The department will provide free phone calls and video visitation for inmates.
TELEWORK FOR NON-ESSENTIAL STATE EMPLOYEES: Mandatory telework will begin March 13 across state agencies for all non-essential state employees.
The measures came after authorities uncovered the state’s first case of the new coronavirus spreading to someone with no exposure to the disease via travel or an infected person. Hogan said midday Thursday that the first case of what is called the community transmission of COVID-19 is a Prince George’s County resident whose illness was confirmed Wednesday night.
“The first case of COV-19 community transmission in Maryland means we are entering a new phase of working to mitigate and limit the spread of this pandemic,” Hogan tweeted. “What we are seeing now is what we have been anticipating and preparing for over the last several weeks.”
The World Health Organization said Wednesday it now considers the global outbreak to be a “pandemic.” The pandemic declaration refers to the scope of the new coronavirus — but not its severity — and means it has become a “worldwide spread of a new disease.”
The state of Maryland is continuing to operate under a state of emergency. To date, there are 12 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maryland, with two of those patients still in the hospital. But officials said three of the 12 have fully recovered and are out of quarantine.
Fran Phillips, Maryland’s deputy secretary for public health services, said that their recoveries are evidence that it is a disease that can be managed.
The list of ongoing state actions is available at governor.maryland.gov/coronavirus.
For health resources regarding COVID-19, including case counts and clinician guidance, visit health.maryland.gov/coronavirus.
At a Wednesday news conference, Hogan said businesses and schools need to prepare for extended closures because of the coronavirus, and organizers of large events should delay or cancel their plans. The St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Baltimore set for Sunday has been canceled. All affiliated activities, including the sold-out Shamrock 5K, are also canceled, organizers told Patch on Thursday.
Collegiate and professional sports are also yielding to pressure from health experts to cancel large gatherings. The Big Ten men’s basketball tournament and the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments have been canceled. The NBA, NHL and MSL have all suspended their seasons, and Major League Baseball has canceled spring training games and postponed its opening day for at least two weeks.
Thursday the state’s total number of cases remained at 12 with another patient each in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, and the first coronavirus case in Baltimore County. The Baltimore County victim is a man in his 60s who had worked at the recent American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in Washington, D.C.
The Maryland Department of Health has notified local officials about the cases and begun investigating potential exposure risk to the community.
As of Thursday afternoon, there were 1,323 confirmed and presumed positive COVID-19 cases in the United States. The infection has caused 39 deaths in the states. Worldwide, more than 127,000 people have the infection, and the outbreak has killed 4,718, reports Johns Hopkins researchers.
Calling the new coronavirus an evolving threat, Hogan on Wednesday outlined several statewide changes to help prevent spread of the infection:
Hogan said he is concerned that the number of cases outside China has increased thirteen-fold and the number of affected countries has tripled in the last two weeks. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told congressional leaders Wednesday that the coronavirus is roughly 10 times more lethal than the seasonal flu, the governor said.
Federal officials have told Hogan that 12 Maryland residents are aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship docked off the California coast. All of them are being taken to military bases in Georgia and Texas for examination and quarantine.
Maryland was asked to take passengers who don’t show any coronavirus symptoms, but Hogan said he has told federal officials that all 12 residents must be tested on a military base first. Once they are cleared by doctors, they can come back to Maryland.
“We want those Marylanders to be able to come home. However, we also want to take every precaution to limit the spread of COVID-19 in our state,” Hogan said.
Any Maryland resident who tests positive for the virus must stay in quarantine at a military base, he added.
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