Gov. Hogan Closes Maryland Public Schools; Expands Emergency Powers as Cecil County Prepares for Virus Impact

March 12, 2020

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced late Thursday (3/12/2020) a series of emergency steps to address the COVID-19 coronavirus, including closure of all public schools in the state for two weeks, effective on Monday 3/16/2020 until 3/27/2020. Hogan’s announcement came two hours after Cecil County Executive Alan McCarthy held a press conference, surrounded by local officials involved in the local response to the virus, to address the public health emergency.

Hogan, who had previously declared a state of emergency in the state to cope with the health issue, said during a televised press conference in Annapolis that the state Superintendent of Schools had decided—and his team of health and emergency services advisors agreed—that all state public schools will close .as of Monday and stay closed for two weeks to allow deep cleaning and disinfecting of school facilities.

The governor announced the first case of a “community” transmission of the virus, meaning that someone with no history of travel outside the US or contact with a known virus-positive person, had been diagnosed in Prince George’s County. He said a total of 12 people in the state had tested positive for the virus, primarily after international travel.

Hogan also said he would close the cruise ship terminal in Baltimore to new departures and two previously scheduled arrivals would be subject to intense scrutiny and monitoring of passengers. He also activated the state’s National Guard for possible deployment to assist in medical or public safety matters.

In addition, Hogan said that state correctional facilities would bar visitors, while hospitals and nursing homes in the state would be directed to bar visitors and/or limit visitor contact with patients so as to prevent possible transmission of the virus to vulnerable elderly patients. He also proclaimed a ban on public gatherings of over 250 persons, ordered closure of state buildings to general public access, and extended drivers’ license renewals by a month so as to prevent drivers from gathering at Motor Vehicle Administration offices.

During the governor’s press conference, Hogan added, almost as an afterthought at the end, that “senior activity centers are closing.” But several hours earlier, Cecil County officials disclosed that they had already decided to close the local Senior Center as of Friday 3/13/2020, according to David Trolio, the director of Cecil County’s Department of Community Services.

He told Cecil Times that Friday would be the last day of seniors’ services at the facility, located at the County Administration Building on Chesapeake Blvd. in Elkton. The seniors’ fitness center would close, and the lunchtime meal services there would be halted. However, seniors would be given a five-day supply of “shelf stable” meals before a new system of home meal delivery of freshly prepared meals is provided, Trolio said. He estimated that about 125 seniors would need to have home-delivered meals to sustain them during the virus crisis.

Meanwhile, Cecil County Public Schools (CCPS) Superintendent Jeff Lawson, responding to Hogan’s schools closure order Thursday night, said on social media that the schools would comply with the directive and that Friday would be the last day of classes until further notice. Students would receive information about lessons, either printed or online, that they and parents could work on during the recess and that such efforts would be informational, and not graded, by their schools.

Earlier in the day, at the county executive’s press conference held at the Cecil County Emergency Operations Center, Dr. Lawson disclosed that the Cecil Manor elementary school had closed down on Thursday morning after a parent t showed up at the administrative offices of the school and displayed visible signs of potential virus exposure. Lawson said that, out of an abundance of caution, students were sent home and maintenance staff was mobilized “within minutes” to clean and disinfect the areas visited by the parent.

After Hogan’s declarations, Cecil County Executive McCarthy told Cecil Times, “I support Gov. Hogan’s initiatives to curtail and prevent the spread of this disease.”

[CECIL TIMES will have an additional report, including detailed coverage of Cecil County initiatives to respond to the new coronavirus, on Friday.]

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