Health and Human Services, MCPS Continue Coronavirus Preparedness

In an statement yesterday, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) let parents and guardians know that it’s working with the county Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) on a public health plan in case the coronavirus outbreak reaches Montgomery County. Thus far, no one has been diagnosed with the coronavirus in Maryland or the greater National Capital Region, which includes Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, Washington, D.C., and parts of Virginia.

Gboyinde Onijala, a spokesperson for MCPS, said the DHHS is taking the lead on the work. 

Mary Anderson, a spokesperson for the DHHS, said that the coronavirus plan in Montgomery County includes updates to existing health preparedness plans that were created for other outbreaks, like the swine flu. Anderson said the plan will focus on guidance, information and basic preparedness, and will be tweaked if circumstances change. 

She said the DHHS is continuing to stay in touch with MCPS and school nurses. The continued message is that there are no local cases in Maryland so far, and also that people should take daily precautions like covering coughs and washing hands often. Anderson said MCPS and the DHHS communicate daily, and that the DHHS has at least one weekly call with State Department officials. 

According to a database from Johns Hopkins that tracks global cases of the illness, there are 60 cases of the coronavirus in the U.S. 15 cases were diagnosed in the U.S., and 45 were diagnosed among repatriated people returning from China and the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan. 

In a statement yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced a possible case of “community spread” of the coronavirus in the U.S., which means the person did not travel to a high-risk area and was not exposed to anyone else with the illness as far as they know, so the source of infection is unknown. The patient was diagnosed in California. 

If confirmed, this would be the first case of coronavirus community spread in the U.S. The CDC makes clear that it’s still possible the person was exposed to a returned international traveler with the illness. 

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Maryam Shahzad

About Maryam Shahzad

Maryam is a reporter with Montgomery Community Media. She graduated from the University of Maryland in December with a bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism. Previously, she was an intern with MCM. Maryam loves visual media and always says the movie is better than the book. She can be reached at mshahzad@mymcmedia.org or on Twitter @maryam_mcm.

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