Maryland officials have ordered that all public schools in the state remain closed through at least April 24, extending an initial two-week closure by four more weeks, to help stem the spread of the coronavirus.
On Wednesday, March 25, at a morning press conference, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and other state officials announced all Maryland public schools will be closed through Friday, April 24, due to the coronavirus.
"We're not going to send kids back if things are still climbing and people are still getting infected," the governor said.
State Superintendent Karen Salmon said the situation will need to be reassessed, and could not say when schools would reopen.
"We may look at an extended year," and other "creative" options, Salmon said at the conference. She said schools will need to develop a "baseline" of learning for all Maryland students over the next four weeks, and some school districts may go above that based on resources.
Hogan announced on March 26 that Maryland has received a Major Disaster Declaration from the federal administration in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. That came after the state earlier in the day reported 580 confirmed cases of COVID-19 — a one-day increase of 157 new cases. The number of confirmed cases in the National Capital Region has quadrupled over the past week.
Schools, bars, many restaurants and churches in Maryland are all temporarily shuttered due to the coronavirus. St. Mary's County declared its own state of emergency as residents try to adjust to major disruptions in recreation and work. The state has advised against any social gatherings of more than 10 people, and continues to endorse social distancing.
Numbers of positive cases throughout the state have increased by the dozens every week, with more than 1,200 cases in Maryland as of this Sunday morning, March 29.
In St. Mary's County, the health department had confirmed 10 cases as of March 29.
St. Mary’s health department announced the county's first case on Saturday, March 21, was a woman in her 20s, currently self-isolating. On March 24, the health department announced that it had confirmed two additional St. Mary’s residents tested positive for the novel coronavirus — a woman in her 20s who may have contracted the virus while traveling domestically, and a man in his 20s whose method of exposure is still being determined.
On Wednesday, March 25, the health department announced the county's fourth confirmed case, a man in his 60s whose method of exposure is likely international travel. A fifth confirmed case was announced the following day, a woman in her 50s who may have contracted the illness locally through community spread, according to the health department. As of Friday afternoon, there were six confirmed cases in St. Mary's, the newest being a male in his 30s who had known exposure to a person diagnosed with COVID-19. Two residents at Charlotte Hall Veterans Home were confirmed to have the virus, and a late day release on March 28 confirmed two more — a man in his 50s whose method of exposure is likely international travel and a man in his 70s whose method of exposure is still being determined — bringing the county's total to 10.
Two more cases, bringing the county's total to 12, were announced March 30 — a man in his 30s whose method of exposure is still being determined and a woman in her 40s whose method of exposure is still being determined.
The health department said as cases are confirmed, it conducts investigations into whether other community members may have been exposed.
During another announcement made Monday, March 16, Hogan said that all bars, restaurants, movie theaters and gyms were to be closed indefinitely starting at 5 p.m. that day. Carry-out and drive-throughs were allowed to remain open. On March 23, Hogan ordered all non-essential business in order to help slow the spread of the virus.
In addition, gatherings of more than 10 people are now banned, and will be strictly enforced. Other measures put in place by the governor included 5,000 medical volunteer corps activated; out-of-state medical professionals allowed to practice; evictions and service shut-offs prohibited; and banks and grocery stores are to stay open.
Commissioner President Randy Guy (R) declared a State of Emergency effective Saturday, March 14. The emergency declaration follows a similar statewide measure signed earlier by Hogan. The county declaration authorizes the commissioner president “to take such measures as necessary to maximize the preservation of life and property, including the authority to require protective measures and responses," according to a release from county government.
Drive-thru testing for COVID-19 at MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital resumed on Monday, March 23, from noon to 4 p.m. in front of the Outpatient Pavilion. In order to be tested, individuals must: be a St. Mary’s County resident; have a prescription for testing from a primary care provider or the St. Mary’s health department; present a valid photo ID; and remain in their vehicle and an associate will come out to them. Test results are not immediate; results may take up to seven days to become available. For more, visit www.smchd.org/coronavirus.
In accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance and Hogan’s executive order issued March 19 prohibiting social gatherings of more than 10 people, St. Mary’s County government is offering appointments to reduce walk-in customers. A limited number of onsite appointments are available through the online appointment request portal at www.stmarysmd.com/Appointments. For matters not requiring an appointment, citizens are encouraged to contact all St. Mary’s County departments by phone at 301-475-4200.
St. Mary’s County government has canceled or postponed all board, commission and committee meetings, unless required by law due. The St. Mary's County commissioners will hold their regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday, March 24, at 9 a.m. The commissioners plan to meet in person or by tele/video conference in the Chesapeake Building in Leonardtown. All agenda items will be limited to essential business only. The public may watch the meeting live on SMCG Channel 95 or on the St. Mary’s County Government YouTube Channel at www.youtube.com/user/StMarysCoMDGov. For more, visit www.stmarysmd.com.
The St. Mary's school board meeting scheduled for Wednesday, March 25, will be held at 10 a.m. in the Board of Education Meeting Room at 23160 Moakley St. in Leonardtown. The meeting will be closed to the public. The public may watch the meeting live via www.smcps.org/streaming. For more information, call 301-475-5511, ext. 32177.
Hogan last week ordered all senior activity centers to close, limited visitors allowed at hospitals and jails, and announced other drastic measures to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus. He also activated the Maryland National Guard.
At a March 17 press conference, Hogan announced that the state’s primary election originally scheduled for April 28 will be postponed until Tuesday, June 2. Also, the Preakness Stakes horse race in Baltimore will likely be postponed until “sometime in September,” rail and bus services in the state will be reduced, and all non-commercial driver’s license tests are suspended.
As positive coronavirus cases continue to spread in Maryland, public schools, colleges, government agencies and others are taking precautions like restricting travel, and most public events are being canceled.
• Drive-up lunch service will be provided at Leonardtown Elementary, Greenview Knolls Elementary, Lexington Park Elementary and Margaret Brent Middle from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Mondays through Fridays. Meals will be offered to all children 18 years and younger free of charge. Parents and children can drive up to these locations and receive meals that they can take home during the current school closures. For more information, email email@example.com.
• MedStar St. Mary's Hospital is no longer allowing more than one visitor into the facility per patient; additional family and friends may not enter the facility. Any visitors to those being tested for COVID-19 must seek approval from the hospitals vice president of medical affairs.
• All Maryland Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Administration branch offices are closed effective at 4:30 p.m. Friday, March 20. All driver’s and business licenses, identification cards, permits and registrations that have expiration dates of March 12 through the end of Maryland’s state of emergency will not expire until 30 days after the state of emergency has been lifted. MDOT MVA’s eStore at mva.maryland.gov and self-service kiosks are still available for some services.
• A call center has been opened for St. Mary’s County residents needing more information about the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19. Community members can call the center at 301-475-4911 Mondays to Fridays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to speak with staff, obtain information about the disease, or get their questions answered. The health department buildings, including the main office in Leonardtown and harm reduction satellite office in Lexington Park, are closed to public access until further notice. Updates and information are also available at the website www.smchd.org/coronavirus.
• All senior activity centers (Garvey, Loffler and Northern) will be closed beginning Friday, March 13, until further notice.
• Home-delivered meals will continue as regularly scheduled; There will be no congregate meals at senior activity centers, but meals will be provided to New Towne Village and Cedar Lane Senior Living Communities.
• All St. Mary's County Department of Recreation and Parks programs and facilities are canceled through March 29; Wicomico Shores Golf Course Pro Shop is open for golf from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, although the Riverview Restaurant is closed until further notice; all organized practices and games are canceled in St. Mary’s County parks through March 29.
• St. Marys County Library branches will be closed through March 29. All library programming and events are also canceled during that time, and meeting rooms are closed; no fines will be levied during library closure period; the Friends of the Library book sale scheduled for March 26 to 29 is canceled; the Library Board of Trustees meeting scheduled for March 16 is canceled.
• Courts in the Maryland Judiciary, court offices, administrative offices, units of the Judiciary, and the Offices of the Clerks of the Circuit Courts are operating on an emergency basis, with some judiciary operations will continue to the extent practicable; for more information, visit https://mdcourts.gov/ or www.stmarysmd.com/circuit-court/ or call 301-475-4200, ext. 74163.
• Effective Monday, March 23, St. Mary’s County Animal Control Officers will limit direct interactions with the public and will only respond to the following types of calls: imminent public safety; request from law enforcement/fire/EMS assistance; injured domestic stray animals; and cruelty and neglect complaints. Animal Control will continue to take calls for service at 301-475-8018. For more, visit www.stmarysmd.com/es/animalcontrol.
• There will be a 90-day extension of the April 15 deadline for federal income tax payments, as well as Maryland tax payments. No interest or penalty for late payments will be imposed if 2019 tax payments are made by July 15.
• The Office of the State Fire Marshal announced that all of its regional offices and headquarters in Pikesville will be closed to the public; also, all inspections, including final inspections, annual, maintenance and licensing fire safety inspections, are being postponed; for more information, visit https://mdsp.maryland.gov/firemarshal.
• Outside services at the St. Mary's County Adult Detention Center, including the GED program and church services, are canceled as of Friday afternoon. Inside services, such as mental health services, will be continuing. Video visitation, as of now, will be continuing. For more information, contact the jail at 301-475-4200, ext. *3200.
• The six convenience centers and the St. Andrew's Landfill will continue normal operations until further notice.
• St. Mary's College of Maryland students are to not return to campus this semester, and classes will be taught remotely using technology. The college suspended all college-supported out-of-state travel by students, faculty or staff to locations within the United States that have declared coronavirus-related emergencies. All college-supported international travel is suspended indefinitely.
• Historic St. Mary's City delayed its planned March 17 opening; all Historic St. Mary's City events and programs are canceled until further notice; Historic St. Mary’s City walking trails remain open.
• All Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Washington will be closed through at least March 27.
• Additionally, Masses open to the public at all Catholic parishes, missions and campus ministries will not be celebrated until further notice; weddings and funerals may proceed but attendance should be limited to immediate family.
• The Episcopal Diocese of Washington announced on March 11 that all of its churches, including those in St. Mary's County, would be closing or canceling all services for at least two weeks.
• St. Mary's College of Maryland athletics will be suspending all sports competition and practice through April 3. St. Mary's College student-athletes have been advised to return home during this time period.
• The Southern Maryland Fishing Fair and Boat Safety Exposition scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, March 21 and 22, at the St. Mary’s County Fairgrounds has been postponed until Aug. 29 and 30. For more, visit www.smrfo.com.
• The April 5 bluegrass concert at the American Legion Post 238 in Hughesville has been cancelled.
• The Youth Risk Behavior Survey town hall meeting scheduled by the St. Mary’s County Health Department and St. Mary’s County Public Schools for March 16 is being postponed until a later date. The rescheduled date will be shared with the community when it is available.
• A state of emergency was declared in Maryland on March 5, and Hogan said the state’s health department and emergency management agency will “ramp up coordination among all state and local agencies and enable them to fast-track coordination with our state and local health departments and emergency management teams.”
• Guidance for long-term and continuing-care communities was provided by the governor's office on Tuesday. Older people and those with underlying health conditions are at a significantly higher risk from COVID-19, with morbidity and mortality rates that are three to five times higher than most flu seasons. The Maryland Department of Health issued the following guidance for facilities that serve older people: Restrict access to essential visits only; Restrict activities and visitors with potential for exposure; Actively screen individuals entering the building and restrict entry to those with respiratory symptoms or possible exposure to COVID-19; Require all individuals entering the building to wash their hands at entry; Establish processes to allow remote communication for residents and others; and Prohibit all staff from international travel.
• A press release from the governor's office states the Maryland Department of Budget and Management is advising state agencies to cancel out-of-state travel.
Preventative measures offered
No vaccine is available for COVID-19, but preventative measures like washing hands, avoiding contact with people who are sick, staying home when sick, avoiding touching eyes, mouth and nose, covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue, and disinfecting frequently are recommended by the St. Mary’s health department.
The CDC does not recommend using face masks for the general public, but only for health care providers, emergency medical services and those who show symptoms of the illness or those helping others who may be sick.
Common symptoms of the coronavirus are similar to respiratory illnesses like the common cold and flu, which could include coughing, fever or shortness of breath.
The county health department said if showing symptoms, call a health care provider and to not visit the provider without first calling. For more information on the coronavirus, visit www.smchd.org/coronavirus or call 301-475-4911.