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Maryland Public Schools Close As First Community Transmitted Case Of COVID-19 Hits State

Lee Krempel

Maryland’s public schools will be closed for two weeks starting Monday March 16th through Friday March 27th  due to the growing number of cases of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, in the state.

State Superintendent Karen Salmon announced the closings in an afternoon news conference Thursday.

She also said all schools and buses would be cleaned during the two-week break  and that she would talk with the heads of all 24 of Maryland’s public school systems to develop plans for continuing educational and child care services during the break as well as providing meals for students on free and reduced meal programs.

And she recommended that school systems use spring break days to make up the lost time.

Her decision came as Governor Larry Hogan announced that Maryland has its first case of the virus transmitted within the community.

The Prince George’s County resident is now hospitalized. Unlike Maryland’s previous cases, Hogan said, this person had no known exposure to the coronavirus through travel or through another known infected individual.

“The circumstances of this case indicate that we are entering a new phase of this crisis in our state,” he said. “We should expect the number of cases to dramatically and rapidly rise. Our primary focus is now turning from containment to aggressively working to mitigate the spread of the virus.”

Maryland state prisons will suspend visits, hospitals will limit visitors, and all senior centers are closed. Public access to the statehouse is closed. And he prohibited all large gatherings over 250 people.

“For Marylanders, the actions I have announced will be disruptive to your everyday lives and they may sound extreme and they may sound frightening but they could be the difference in saving lives,” he said.  

Earlier today, Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski spoke to reporters about the county’s first positive known case of the coronavirus. 

“The individual is in his 60s and worked at the recent AIPAC conference in Washington D.C.,” Olszewski said he is not hospitalized.

Several people who attended the AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference, held February 28 to March 2nd in Washington, D.C., have tested positive for COVID-19.

Flanked by leaders of various county agencies, Olszewski said the county government is taking an abundance of caution and urged residents to do so as well.  

“We encourage residents, especially those who are vulnerable, to avoid large crowds and practice social isolation when possible.”

Dr. Gregory Branch, the county Health Officer said health workers have tested twenty county residents for the virus, with that one positive result that came in Wednesday night, and nine “that we’re waiting on [the results].”

The other ten tests were negative, he said.

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