By Carmen Molina Acosta and Rina Torchinsky
Senior Staff Writers
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency Thursday night hours after three cases of coronavirus were confirmed in Montgomery County, he said in a press conference at the State House.
The patients, a couple in their 70s and a woman in her 50s, contracted the virus on a group overseas trip, said Frances Phillips, the state health department’s deputy public health secretary. They returned to the U.S. on Feb. 20, Phillips added.
Phillips did not disclose where they had traveled in order to protect their privacy, though none were hospitalized and their symptoms are “abating,” she said. They are currently quarantined and in “good condition,” Hogan said.
A thorough investigation is underway to understand the patient’s activity with the public, Hogan said. While the patients went to a local hospital for testing, they’re now quarantined at home. Phillips stressed that the hospital was notified of their arrival and took all the necessary precautions to prevent transmission.
The superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools, along with other local and federal leaders and institutions, have been alerted, Hogan said.
“While this news is serious, I want to again remind everyone this is exactly what our state has been actively and aggressively been preparing for many weeks now,” Hogan said.
Hogan submitted legislation Thursday to transfer resources from the state’s “rainy day fund” for further costs relating to a coronavirus response.
The Maryland Higher Education Commission is coordinating with the University System of Maryland to bring students home from study abroad programs, he said.
The University of Maryland cancelled all spring break and summer study abroad programs Tuesday, after suspending programs in Italy, South Korea and China, according to a campuswide email. Programs in China were suspended in January, while programs in Italy and South Korea were cancelled last week.
This university will send updates as further information from the state health department becomes available, according to a tweet.
“Unlike other states, so far, these are not cases of community transmission here in Maryland,” said Phillips. “Now that’s not to say we will not have that occur, but at this point these are travel related cases.”
Phillips urged anyone exhibiting potential coronavirus symptoms to contact their health provider if they are older or have pre-existing conditions that put them at risk. Hogan urged citizens to stay calm, but prepare contingency plans and closures.
“This is not a reason to panic,” Hogan said. ”Marylanders should go to work or go to school, just as they do.”
This story has been updated.