ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Dozens of people in Maryland are confirmed to have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to Gov. Larry Hogan. Fifteen of these patients are residents of Montgomery County, according to Hogan, who officially declared a State of Emergency on March 5 when the virus first reached Maryland.
"The state’s Public Health Laboratory in Baltimore has confirmed the first three positive cases of novel coronavirus in Maryland," the statement read. "The patients, who contracted the virus while traveling overseas, are in good condition."
The first three cases of the coronavirus were confirmed in Montgomery County, including a couple in their 70s and a woman in her 50s, who traveled together on an Egyptian cruise down the Nile River. Those three patients have now fully recovered and been "cleared to return back to normal schedules."
Among other cases in Montgomery County are four men and two women. The men are in their 20s to 70s and the women are in their 20s and 30s.
Hogan confirmed Friday that the first three patients had been traveling together on an MS A'Sara Egyptian cruise on the Nile River. He said it appeared to be the same cruise ship that the World Health Organization announced had 12 workers placed in quarantine for 14 days, and is also linked to eight confirmed cases in Texas.
"We don’t have any evidence of community transmission of COVID-19," Dr. Travis Gayles, who is Montgomery County Health Officer and Chief of Public Health Services said. Gayles later added, "A number of folks being looked at from a contact perspective."
Hogan also noted that the patients had at least two instances of public interactions that he felt warranted public notification.
"One of the Maryland patients attended a public event on Feb. 28 at the Village at Rockville, a retirement community, where they were in contact with approximately 70-100 individuals including outside visitors as well as residents and staff," Hogan said. "Due to the scale of that gathering, we are urging anyone who attended an event last Saturday at the Village at Rockville between noon and 6 p.m. to immediately contact your healthcare provider or the Maryland Emergency Management Agency Call Center at 410-517-3720."
Hogan noted that one of the other infected Marylanders attended an event in Philadephia where they were in contact with a group of children and staff from a local school district. As a result, the Central Bucks School District closed five local schools until further notice.
Officials would not comment on where the patients had been tested.
Gov. Hogan said the state has been prepared for the situation for several weeks and urged Marylanders to not panic.
"While this news is serious, this is exactly what our state has been actively and aggressively preparing for many weeks now, he continued. "Marylanders should go to work or go to school as they normally do. At the same time, I want to continue to remind everyone to prepare themselves and to continue to stay informed."
Gayles explained that testing guidelines changed this week to expand to include people who travel to countries affected by the virus. There is testing capability at the local and state level, but Gayles said there are not enough tests locally.
Vice President Mike Pence later confirmed Gayles' statement, saying nationwide that "there are not enough tests."
If a patient seeks medical treatment, they are tested, where a specimen is collected, sent to a state lab in Baltimore for analysis, and if a presumptive positive is identified, the sample is sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to confirm the positive outcome.
Now, after a presumptive positive test, the state follows-up directly with the affected individual for treatment and self-quarantined, Gayles explained during a news conference Friday morning.
While officials said they could not share the facility where the patients are being treated, or how exactly they were exposed to the COVID-19, Gayles did say, "The individuals were not on a cruise affiliated with Baltimore."
Montgomery Co. Schools announced they have plans to go digital if coronavirus outbreak spreads to Maryland.
The school system's digital portal and cable TV channel are to be leveraged to keep the learning going if schools are forced to close, the superintendent says.
In less than two months, World Health authorities have been tracking the virus, COVID-19 has already spread to more people than the 2002 SARS, 2012 MERS and 2014 ebola epidemics.
More troubling is that COVID-19 has so far been more infectious and more lethal than the seasonal flu – with a mortality rate estimated to be 10%-30% higher than the seasonal flu, at least for now. That rate could change as more reports come in of people recovering from the virus.
Check the status of the virus in your state with your state health department's websites by tapping below: