The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will test two more samples from Maryland residents for the novel coronavirus.
This makes four Maryland residents tested for the disease, which first appeared in Wuhan, China, on Dec. 31. The first two people tested in Maryland were negative for the disease.
The CDC warned Wednesday that COVID-19, the official name of the disease caused by the coronavirus COV-SARS-2, might lead to potential long-term disruptions in everyday life.
But while Maryland residents should take COVID-19 seriously, there is no need to panic, Gov. Larry Hogan said at a press conference Thursday evening.
“Let me repeat that,” Hogan said. “There is no immediate public health emergency here in Maryland.”
Hogan, along with Fran Phillips, deputy secretary for public health services, said Maryland is preparing for the arrival of the coronavirus and holds regular briefings with health care providers and health department, while also communicating with the CDC.
Hogan urged schools to have contingency plans for the disease, including if they need to be shut down, suggested that governments push back any planned large event and warned businesses they might need to adjust for employees working from home.
Hogan was late to the press conference because he had been on the phone with Vice President Mike Pence, who is leading the U.S. response to the coronavirus.
He is also submitting a supplemental budget to the Maryland General Assembly that will contain $10 million for coronavirus preparation and response.
“I want to assure Marylanders that our state is taking every precaution when it comes to the coronavirus because our highest priority is keeping our residents safe,” Hogan said. “While we are hoping for the best, we are planning for the worst.”
COVID-19 is a respiratory disease, but what is known about the new disease is constantly evolving, Phillips said. The disease is thought to spread from person to person, according to the CDC.
Symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to those caused by influenza, but unlike the flu, there is no vaccine or medications for the disease caused by COV-SARS-12.
‘You know the way this new coronavirus is spread is exactly the way as influenza is spread, so I want to say it one more time: Wash your hands frequently,” Phillips said at the press conference.
It is unclear how well the virus will spread. In China, particularly in Hubei province, the disease spread easily and sustainably. In the United States, however, person-to-person spread has been more limited.
The CDC announced Wednesday the first person in the U.S. to develop the coronavirus with an unknown origin.
The severity of the disease is also still unknown, according to the CDC. The disease has caused mild to severe cases, and in approximately 3 percent of known cases, death.
In the United States, 15 people have developed coronavirus, with the total case number of 60 due to passengers from an infected cruise ship currently being quarantined.
A total of 48 countries, including the United States and China, have confirmed cases, bringing the global total to more than 82,700, according to the New York Times. Of the cases, at least 2,809 have died.
The Maryland Department of Health is in continual communication with health care providers and local health departments in the state, as well as with neighboring state governments, Phillips said. There are hotlines in every jurisdiction running 24 hours a day, seven days a week so a trained clinician can answer any call for people with potential COVID-19 symptoms.
The situation in Maryland and across the United States is currently low-risk.
Cases in Maryland are still being sent to the CDC, but Phillips said the state health department is waiting for test materials so tests can be conducted at the Maryland Public Health Laboratory in Baltimore.
She advises people to stay informed with reputable sources, to wash their hands, cover their coughs, stay home if sick, and avoid touching their face and eyes.
People should prepare for potential longer stays at home and should make sure they have essential items, thermometers, pain relievers, alcohol-based hand sanitizers and nonperishable food. It is not unlike preparing for a bad winter storm, she said.
The state has plans for what happens if a coronavirus-infected person comes through an airport or cruise dock, as well as for individual versus group quarantine, Hogan said. But right now, all plans are hypothetical.
“There are a lot of hypothetical situations that are dealt with in our plans, but it’s not something we want to speculate on because we don’t have that issue quite yet,” Hogan said.
Hogan said he is confident in the state’s ability to respond to any potential coronavirus cases and is hopeful that the state’s health research centers could be leaders in the response.
“I would encourage all Marylanders not to panic, but to take this seriously and continue to stay informed,” he said at the press conference.