(The first piece here is an article written yesterday afternoon by Staff Writer Charlene Sharpe. It was too late to include in an article format.)
Health officials confirmed the first positive case of COVID-19 in Worcester County Thursday.
Worcester County Health Department officials announced Thursday afternoon that the county’s first confirmed positive COVID-19 case was a male in his 30s who lives in Worcester County. He is recovering at home.
“Worcester County Health Department is conducting a contact investigation and appropriate close contacts will have arrangements made for testing if indicated,” the department’s release reads.
Health Officer Rebecca Jones urged people to practice prevention strategies.
“This is a time when we all need to work together,” she said. “Please do your part in controlling the spread of this virus. Basic prevention strategies such as washing your hands often, covering your cough and sneeze, staying home when you are sick, and practicing social distancing can help us all keep one another safe and healthy during this time.”
Shortly after noon on Thursday, Berlin daycare Bundles of Joy University advised parents to pick up their children “after a family member of our Berlin location has tested positive for COVID-19,” according to a text alert sent to clients. The alert went on to state “this case was reported to the Worcester County Health Department.” The daycare said it would be closed for quarantine until March 30. According to a text from the day care facility, the enrolled child of the family member has not attended since March 11.
The health department opened a call center Thursday for questions regarding coronavirus. Callers can reach the center during health department business hours (8 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday) by dialing 410-632-1100 option #8. General information on COVID-19 is available 24/7 through Worcester Health’s Public Information Line (410-632-4321) and WorcesterHealth.org. Officials advise people to protect themselves by washing their hands often, covering coughs and sneezes and staying home if sick
Gov. Larry Hogan deserves credit for leading the charge against the coronavirus pandemic. Maryland has been a leader in taking serious efforts to reduce the spread. Though the restrictive precautions were not received favorably by all, it’s difficult to argue against being overly cautious. It was effective leadership, and Hogan’s swift actions were repeatedly followed by other states taking the same measures. Hogan’s communication has been clear and concise.
Some sources in government were reporting privately as early as last Saturday evening restaurants and bars in the state were going to be closed first thing Monday to avoid crowds on St. Patrick’s Day. It was clear last weekend revelers were out in force celebrating the weekend in Ocean City and other places. The crowds were generally lighter in Ocean City than usual for the weekend before St. Patrick’s Day, but it was evident people were not as concerned as they probably should have been about the virus. The attitude seemed to be if the people were not going to be responsive and adhere to the government’s requests for social distancing leaders would take away the choice. In a press conference Monday, Hogan referred to the weekend crowds at bars, saying, “we are not playing around anymore” with his announcement bars and restaurants would be shuttered Monday at 5 p.m.
On Thursday morning, Hogan enacted several more closures, including indoor malls. He said, “This is truly one of the most daunting challenges our state has ever faced. I know the actions we have been taken may seem extreme and frightening, but they are necessary to save lives. We are all in this together. If we all do our part and rise to this challenge to meet this moment, we will get through this together. I ask you continue to pray for each other and our state and our nation.”
More preventative measures will likely be coming, but Hogan has stopped short of saying a “shelter in place” order is imminent.
The question many currently have is whether schools will reopen at all this school year. My guess is they will not, but there is still time to consider this thoroughly.
In Worcester County’s case, a logical assumption is the closure will extend beyond March 27. At this point, it’s in the governor’s hands because he mandated the two-week closure. The governor has been asked at each press conference about schools, and he admitted it’s just too early to tell at this point when or if they will open. He finds a different way to answer the question each time, but the bottom line is he doesn’t know what he’s going to do yet. With the situation so fluid each day, it’s understandable no commitment is coming anytime soon.
As far as Worcester goes, a look at the school calendar shows a long spring break is planned for April 6-13 currently. Concerns have been the county might take that planned week off away from students. Those concerns are silly because they assume schools will reopen before that week. My guess is it will be at least a month before it’s known if schools will reopen at all this year.