Frederick County first responders are preparing for a potential first case of the new coronavirus disease in the county, as the number of cases in Maryland continues to rise.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced three more cases of COVID-19 — two more in Prince George’s County and another in Montgomery County — bringing the total of cases in the state to nine. All nine Maryland cases are travel-related, with the majority connected to a Nile River cruise.

The guidance for anyone presenting with the common symptoms of COVID-19, including a temperature of 100.4 or higher, a cough and shortness of breath, is to contact their doctor. But there could be cases where a person may be too ill and require an ambulance trip.

The 911 call-takers will screen callers using questions about symptoms, travel history and potential exposure to someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19, County Executive Jan Gardner announced Monday.

Emergency management is drawing from experience handling severe acute respiratory syndrome, Middle East respiratory syndrome and Ebola, said Jack Markey, director of the county’s Emergency Management Division.

Emergency management has a call protocol that uses structured questions to find the needed resources and determine how to help the person on the line, Markey said. That protocol allows them to ask questions about emerging infectious diseases.

If a person were to answer in such a way that they meet the criteria for possibly having COVID-19, emergency management services personnel will transport them as if they had the disease, Markey said. That is how they would also transport someone with another communicable disease such as tuberculosis.

This would require sending a specialized unit, Markey said.

If fire and rescue personnel identify someone who they believe may be symptomatic, they will offer to take them to a hospital if the person wishes, but simply having the virus does not mean a person must be hospitalized, said Tom Coe, newly minted chief of the Frederick County Division of Fire and Rescue Services.

Emergency rescue personnel will not handle testing for any patients, Coe said. The county health department coordinates testing.

When it comes to where a patient might go, emergency management personnel would use a consult protocol to see which hospital they should take the patient, Markey said. If the patient is in a central part of the county, it is likely Frederick Health Hospital, but on the outskirts of the county, some hospitals in Pennsylvania and Washington County are closer.

Some hospitals also have additional capabilities, he said.

“We run into communicable diseases of many different types, throughout the ordinary transaction of business throughout a year so, hospitals are fully prepared to deal with that,” Markey said. “Even before coronavirus was a thing.”

Inventorying suppliesPublic safety agencies are also preparing for the potential arrival of the virus in Frederick County. While Frederick police are encouraging officers to follow the same common-sense tips that most residents are hearing to protect themselves from contracting the virus, the department is looking further ahead, said Lt. John Corbett, who is overseeing the agency’s efforts.

“We’re looking at our staffing levels and forecasting so that, should we start experiencing attrition within our ranks, we know where can we start looking to shuffle things around in order to maintain our service levels,” Corbett said.

The department has also done a complete inventory of its medical supplies, including gloves and masks — which are used in many routine situations by police and crime scene technicians — to make sure they are stocked up enough for their ordinary needs as well as any additional demand that may arise from the virus, Corbett said.

“We’re in good shape, and the city has resources as well. This was just a timely opportunity to look at those supplies and whether we need to expand beyond that in the future,” Corbett said.

The department also attends weekly meetings at the Frederick County Health Department along with representatives from Frederick Health Hospital, Fort Detrick, the Division of Fire and Rescue Services and other local agencies to discuss their ongoing efforts to prepare and ensure everyone is on the same page, Corbett said.

The Division of Fire and Rescue Services also examined staffing and took inventory of masks and other equipment, Coe said.

While Coe said the division’s supplies are more than adequate at the moment, emergency medical personnel are still cognizant of the virus and the chances that they will be called to respond to someone who might have it.

“Some of the things that we’re looking for are really based on what we’re hearing from the [Centers for Disease Control], and that includes travel to different regions or known contact with an individual who has the virus, combined with symptoms including a fever, trouble breathing or coughing, things like that,” Coe said. “And understand that those symptoms are evolving as the virus continues to evolve and we learn more about it.”

In terms of medical equipment, rescue personnel will handle potential cases of coronavirus in much the same way that they handle people suspected of having the flu, Coe said. Personnel typically wear masks, gloves, protective eye equipment and gowns in those cases, the chief said.

Supply right now is not the concern, Markey said, although the supply chain might be a challenge. That is, in part, why they ask people to not wear masks and leave them for emergency personnel and medical professionals.

Masks aren’t appropriate for the public at this time, he said.

More than anything, both Coe and Corbett encouraged residents to avoid panicking and to seek information about the virus from reliable sources.

“The CDC and the Frederick County Health Department, those are really the only reputable sources where you should be getting your information about this particular situation, and especially avoid social media,” Corbett said.

COVID-19 and jailsThe Frederick County Adult Detention Center is also taking steps to prepare for a local outbreak of cases, said Lt. Col. William V. DeLauter, the corrections bureau chief. Because many of the people booked into the jail stay there for only a few days before being released, someone with the virus could infect others inside and spark a pandemic in the closely confined community.

Taking a cue from similar steps they adopted in the midst of the avian influenza scare several years ago, DeLauter said that all new arrivals to the detention center are subject to screenings before they enter central booking.

“We have a series of questions that we’re going to ask when they come in the door and if the answer to any of the questions is yes, we will alert our medical staff, who are available 24 hours a day, to come down and make a further assessment and give the inmate a surgical mask,” DeLauter said.

Along with symptoms such as coughing and sore throat, the screening involves being subject to a temperature reading with a thermal thermometer. Finally, the screening also involves questions about whether the people have recently traveled to China, Iran, South Korea, Japan or Italy in the last two weeks or if they have otherwise had contact with anyone suspected to have the virus, according to DeLauter.

“In addition to all that, if someone is suspected [of having the virus] we also will contact the health department and advise them and take any direction that they may have for us,” the warden added.

To prevent the virus from arriving with visitors from the outside, signs have been posted in the visitation wing asking anyone who is ill and especially those who might have had exposure to the virus to consider refraining from visiting, DeLauter said.

While detention center employees have ready access to hand sanitizer, the people in detention will have to make do with soap and water, DeLauter said, explaining that hand sanitizer is considered contraband.

“Those hand sanitizers contain alcohol and inmates will find a way to turn it into alcohol,” DeLauter said. “But still the best practice we’re hearing is just frequently washing your hands with soap and water.”

Jeremy Arias is the Frederick city and government reporter for The Frederick News-Post.

Heather Mongilio is the health and Fort Detrick reporter for the Frederick News-Post. She can be reached at hmongilio@newspost.com.

(25) comments

Dwasserba

'“And understand that those symptoms are evolving as the virus continues to evolve and we learn more about it.”' Oh is that all.

Kelpfarming

Nonsense. So you rely in the Chinas for that but NOT the Tens of thousands of recovery? I see, GET TRUMP. What else you sewing in the hearts of we American, my dear marxist. CHeers

Obadiah Plainsmen

Well we find America under attack again. Not by terrorist but by something more sinister and potenially dangerous, COVID-19. The cry is that the Trump Administration is not doing enough, they are playing catch-up. Like the cartoon the other day showed about social media, all the constitutional experts have now become infectious disease experts. In a time of crisis if the citizens don't trust the governement then chaos and panick take over. President Trump has in his power the National Emergencies Act. Congress has delegated at least 136 distinct statutory emergency powers to the President, each available upon the declaration of an emergency. Only 13 of these require a declaration from Congress; the remaining 123 are assumed by an executive declaration with no further Congressional input.

As of today the COVD-19 is just a Public" heath emergency , but it is justb a stroke of the pen for the President to declare a "National Emergency". Are Martial Law, large containment zones and the military patrolling the streets in our future? Keep whinning and complaining about a lack of response, you might find "G.I Joe" as your grubhub delivery person.

awteam2000

I have no clue what you are taking about. But as long as you do - we’re good. Right? This isn’t about Trump but a Pandemic that here , now and how we should address it, to prevent further harm. It’s now spread to over 130 nations in three weeks. World trade markets are in decline. Italy has put the whole nation under quarantine. And it’s here. Get real ... The world doesn’t revolve around Trump.

Obadiah Plainsmen

You're not alone in not having a clue. The President has so many weapons in is arsenal to combat COVID-19 that 99% of Americans have no clue. Most of which are already law. As you stated this is now a declared pandemic and it is here.To stop the spread of COVID-19 and restore calm, all the President has to do is declare martial law. By doing this it restricts the movement of every American. When you can control the population you can control the spread of the COVID-19 just like Italy is trying to do. This has nothing to do about Trump personally but it has all to do with his oath of Office. If America is under attack and the only weapon is "shelter in place" declare a "National Emergency" . You want the President to be pro-active and get ahead of this, don't you? You should read up on the National Emergency Act, FEMA role in this crisis.

awteam2000

The first identified Coronavirus infected person in the US was Feb. 24th. During a Feb. 28, 2020, campaign rally in S. Carolina, Trump likened the Democrats' criticism of his administration's response to the new coronavirus outbreak to their efforts to impeach him, saying "this is their new hoax." Two weeks later we now have 1,200 identified with the virus and 31 dead. We now have 41 states with identified cases. Many from community spread. Less then 6,000 test have been given. Mass test are way overdue. Still no national response. We are way beyond containment and mitigation is lacking. It’s here and it will get worse. Trump tweets everyday about the bad Dems, “Pocahontas”, “sleepy Joe”, “Obama” and others but nothing on fighting the pandemic. But why should we panic?

vodalone

When you elect a reality TV star whose political experience consists of starting the birther movement, this is what you get. Trump has his head in the sand while a national crisis is unfolding, remember this in November.

Jleftwich

Dr. Fauci states that the “worst is yet to come” during a congressional hearing this morning.

Trump has called an emergency meeting of top health officials at 11am. No details, but it’s urgent.

The US is way behind on this.

Jleftwich

To clarify: the US gov’t is way behind on this.

gabrielshorn2013

What would you have them do jleftwich? CDC, NIH, FDA, and others have been on this issue since it sprang up in China at the end of December. It takes time to determine what the contageous agent is, then determine any unique characteristic to make the detection specific. Once that happens, you must determine the best method to propagate the marker, whether naturally, or through synthetic biology. Then the test method must be developed and validated before it is sent around for use. We are really only 2.5 months into this, and having an accurate and robust test method in such a short period of time is unheard of.

Jleftwich

1. Trump just needs to shut up. He keeps downplaying the issue. Fauci in his testimony this AM is contradicting what POTUS, as well as VPOTUS have been publicly saying. Remember, it was Trump who said, when there were 15 cases reported, that the case count would be down to zero in a few days.

2. Test kits should have been ready by now. We had the 2.5 month notice when this thing first appeared in China, no? S. Korea has thousands of test kits. The template is there, correct?

3. The CDC, NIDA, NIH need to be the public face from here on (refer to #1). Fauci is calling for increasing the containment measures.

threecents

I agree with Gabe on this. Sure, Trump is a moron, but otherwise the response has been good so far. Of course there have been problems because it is a new disease, and we have never faced anything like this in the US, but millions of test kits should be available soon, which I think is remarkable. This is uncharted territory, so it will be necessary at times to proceed with caution over speed.

awteam2000

In 2018, Trump fired the entire US pandemic response team. It wasn’t necessary.

https://www.vox.com/2020/2/25/21150574/trump-coronavirus-cdc-cuts

gabrielshorn2013

jleftwich, I don't think you understand my response above, or how test kit development works. Having a highly specific, robust, and validated test kit developed and in distribution for a new and novel pathogen in 2.5 months is unheard of anywhere. Anywhere. The fact that S. Korea has thousands of kits ready is really irrelevant, because we also have that many, and more are being manufactured every day. These RT-PCR kits were being developed as soon as the specific viral marker was determined. The kits had to be checked for specificity (you ONLY want this kit to detect the COVID-19 agent, and not all corona viruses, right?), robustness (you want this kit to perform reliably), and validated on various samples from many different specimens. The scale-up will result in millions of highly accurate and validated test kits available shortly, on top of what we already have.

Regarding the President, he is nothing more than a figurehead in this issue. Do you really take epidemiology advice from someone like DJT who has no experience whatsoever in public health or epidemiology? No! Yes, he should shut up, but hey, whatcha gonna do? Politicians will be politicians. You listen to Dr. Fauci, other CDC personnel, your state and local health departments, etc. Good advice is found on network news and the CDC website.

MRS M

The CDC has been understaffed since Trump's cutbacks, and Trump bears responsibility for this. When asked about his gutting of the CDC as the threat of the virus became evident, Trump replied that he was a businessman, and didn't need to be paying unnecessary salaries, citing the fact that he could easily ramp up staff (at the CDC, or anywhere else) when necessary. So there you have it. The US is behind in its response and it's testing, because the president of the United States disrespects science, scientists, government employees who are experts in their chosen fields, and ANYONE who might lend good counsel to a cause, if they are not in line with his skewed, crazy and prejudicial thinking. Add to this a slimy career politician and right-wing nut whose track record in "public health" was an embarrassing history of mishandling of the AIDs crisis in his state, and who knows quite well that he's going to take the rap for this fiasco, as the the president silently skulks off the stage at their now daily pressers. No amount of appearances by Dr. Fauci can quell the mishandling of this threat by Trump et al.

gabrielshorn2013

aw, Vox ? Now there is a neutral reporting source if there ever was one [sarcasm]. Ever hear the phrase "hindsight is 20/20?" Of course all of those armchair prognosticators are correct in their after-the-fact assessments. The structure was still there to get the response done here in the US, and we have accurate and validated test kits for a new pathogen on the market within 2.5 months, which is unheard of. There was and is no doubt that the this strain of coronavirus was going to spread worldwide. None. The world is highly interconnected by air travel now. Even if the US shut down all air travel from China (and we did), people travel to the rest of the world from China, and then travel here in rapid succession. This strain of coronavirus is highly contageous, similar to the common cold (which is also caused by some strains of coronavirus). Given the high infectivity of the vvirus, and the high interconnectivity due to airplane travel, the only way to stop the virus from entering the US would be to stop ALL international travel to and from the US. That is not practical. It would also mean that the borders to Canada and Mexico be completely shut off. What is the outcome of that? The economy craters. You think the losses we are seeing now are big (they're not), shutting off all cross-border commerce would shut down the economy. We must not panic. For the vast majority of the population, COVID-19 produces no or mild symptoms. For the rest, there may be more serious symptoms, and some may need hospitalization, but that is just what it is for influenza every year. Unfortunately, about 2% of those infected (those with pre-existing health conditions) succumb. But there is nothing in that Vox article that could have sped up any response effort, or gotten an accurate test kit out to physicians, or developed a therapeutic or vaccine that was put through clinical trials, and approved by FDA.

awteam2000

Gabe, Dr. Fauci, head of the Infectious Disease at NIH, said today to Congress, “the Coronavirus is ten times more deadly then influenza and will impact a third of our country“.

https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/government-coronavirus-response-updates-fauci-warns-congress-worse/story?id=69532695

gabrielshorn2013

aw said: "Gabe, Dr. Fauci, head of the Infectious Disease at NIH, said today to Congress, “the Coronavirus is ten times more deadly then influenza and will impact a third of our country“."

I already know that aw. I have been paying attention since the virus started to circulate in China back in December. It's what I do. The flu mortality rate last year was approximately 0.1 %, so a 10x estimate multiple puts COVID-19 at 1%. That's less than half the world average. So with a population of 350 million, we may expect over a million deaths, mostly effecting the elderly and sick, if we don't stem the high person-to-person transmission rate.

MRS M

I too heard esteemed scientist Dr. Fauci's statement today. This was a surprise to me! I thought this was all a democratic hoax deliberately being covered by the corrupt media as yet another direct assault on our leader. What's FOX State News saying today?

gabrielshorn2013

M, you really must read the information at snopes.com. Dana Milbank started this whole thing by misquoting Trump, and here you are. This is no longer a joking matter.

https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/trump-coronavirus-rally-remark/

MRS M

Everyone in America has seen Trump's rally tape. You really must stop defending the indefensible.

gabrielshorn2013

Snopes proving that he didn't say what you say he did is indefensible? Okay...

That Guy Garcon

The jail has a trained medical staff? [scared] LoLoLoLoLoLoLoLoLoL!

gabrielshorn2013

You have firsthand knowledge that they don't?

marylandmirage

[thumbup]

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it clean. No vulgar, racist, sexist or sexually-oriented language.
Engage ideas. This forum is for the exchange of ideas, not personal attacks or ad hominem criticisms.
TURN OFF CAPS LOCK.
Be civil. Don't threaten. Don't lie. Don't bait. Don't degrade others.
No trolling. Stay on topic.
No spamming. This is not the place to sell miracle cures.
No deceptive names. Apparently misleading usernames are not allowed.
Say it once. No repetitive posts, please.
Help us. Use the 'Report' link for abusive posts.

Thank you for reading!

Already a member?

Login Now
Click Here!

Currently a News-Post subscriber?

Activate your membership at no additional charge.
Click Here!

Need more information?

Learn about the benefits of membership.
Click Here!

Ready to join?

Choose the membership plan that fits your needs.
Click Here!