Effective immediately, any gatherings or events with more than 250 people are prohibited in Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan announced at a press conference Thursday.
Hogan also announced that the Maryland Emergency Management Agency would move to its highest level to be able to use all state resources to respond to COVID-19. Hogan also activated the National Guard and has them ready to respond to whatever the need is, he said.
“We cannot stop the spread of this virus without each and every one of you doing your part,” Hogan said. “But also I want all of you to know we’ll get through this together and our state has already faced and overcome daunting challenges before, and we will do so again.”
The announcement comes after Hogan issued a news release Thursday morning stating that Maryland had its first case of community spread, where a Prince George’s County man in his 60s contracted COVID-19 without a history or travel or exposure to someone with the disease. The governor did not announce new cases, keeping Maryland at 12.
There are no confirmed cases in Frederick County, the Frederick County Health Department announced Thursday evening via Facebook.
“We do expect that to change in the future, so we encourage all our residents to follow personal precautions like hand-washing and social distancing,” according to the department’s post.
All nonessential state employees authorized for telework are to do so, Hogan said. All state buildings, including the statehouse, are limited to the public.
Hogan also signed an executive order closing the cruise ship terminal at the Port of Baltimore, preventing any passengers or crew to disembark from a ship that made a call from a port outside of the United States. Two ships, which are due back in a couple of days, are exempt from the closure.
Among the efforts is also the extension of licenses, including driver’s licenses, permits and certification authorized by state agencies set to expire, until after the state of emergency ends.
All hospitals are to adopt new visitor guidelines, which include screening visitors and limiting them. Frederick Health Hospital already updated its guidelines, The News-Post previously reported. State prisons and county jails will likewise prohibit visitors, but state prisons will provide free phone calls and video visitation for inmates.
“For Marylanders, the actions that I have announced here today will be disruptive to your everyday lives,” Hogan said. “And they may sound extreme. And they may sound frightening, but they could be the difference in saving lives and helping keep people safe.”
Although he announced multiple changes, Hogan said that daily life should not come to a halt. People can still go to the grocery store, he said.
Starting Monday, Maryland will, however, close public schools for two weeks, said State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon.
This means the state is now moving to a mitigation phase, where the state works to slow the spread of the disease, as opposed to containment, where the state attempts to prevent the spread.
Three of the 12 Maryland residents who have tested positive for the new coronavirus disease have fully recovered and are out of quarantine, Fran Phillips, deputy secretary for public health services, said at the press conference.
Two of the people remain hospitalized, Phillips said.
More cases are expected in the state, Hogan said. Information is changing rapidly, and it is unclear how long COVID-19 will last.
Measures such as closing schools are part of an effort to “flatten the curve,” an expression used to describe bringing the curve that an outbreak takes down below what hospitals and the health care system can handle, Frederick County health officer Dr. Barbara Brookmyer said Thursday night.
It is about preventing the health care system from being overwhelmed and instead making it more of a trickle, she said. It will also make it easier for families who might fall ill so that not all members are sick at once.
The state is under a state of emergency.
“This is a public health emergency. ... These are extraordinary measures that you have heard here today and this is an extraordinary time,” Phillips said.