Friday, March 6, 2020

Coronavirus cases in Montgomery County confirmed, MCPS preparing for potential school closures if needed

Hogan declares state of emergency
after 3 MoCo residents test
positive for COVID-19

Three people in Montgomery County have tested positive for coronavirus, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced Thursday evening. Officials will not reveal the specific parts of Montgomery County where the three individuals live, where they traveled overseas, or what public places they have visited since returning from their travels. Hogan described them only as a married couple in their seventies, and an individual in his or her fifties.

At a press conference, Hogan said he had informed Vice-President Mike Pence of the three Maryland COVID-19 cases. Pence is leading the Trump administration's federal coronavirus response effort. Hogan also alerted Montgomery County officials, including Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Jack Smith. The state's Emergency Operations Center has been activated, Hogan said.

Shortly afterward, MCPS released its own statement, which emphasized in boldface that schools will not be closed for coronavirus Friday. The statement said that there is no evidence the three patients, who Hogan said are under quarantine, were in contact with MCPS students since returning from their overseas travel. However, MCPS did say they are preparing for the real possibility that schools will have to close for an undetermined period if the pandemic continues to worsen.

"This is exactly what our state has been actively and aggressively been preparing for," Hogan said. He said this will allow the state's emergency offices to increase cooperation and coordination with federal and local officials. "We encourage all Marylanders not to panic," the Maryland Emergency Management Agency tweeted. MEMA conducted a coronavirus preparedness conference call with emergency managers from local jurisdictions around the state Thursday.

County Executive Marc Elrich is scheduled to give an update on the coronavirus cases at 10:00 AM this morning. Hogan will hold his own press conference at the same time. How much more detail either will give regarding the current cases is unclear. There are increasing calls from the public to know which public establishments, and parts of the county, the three infected people may have spread the virus in over the many days between their return from overseas and yesterday's positive test results. No one expects the names and addresses of the individuals to be released, of course, but simply to know whether they may have been exposed to the virus.

Meanwhile, the EPA released an official list of disinfectants that kill coronavirus, or prevent its spread. Panic buying of such products, along with bottled water, paper goods and other necessities, continues. Can't find hand wipes or hand sanitizer at your nearby stores? Here is a recipe for how to make hand sanitizer disinfectant at home, using vodka or rubbing alcohol (although the latter is also hard to find in many stores, as well).