coronavirus

‘Extraordinary Measures’: Maryland to Close Schools, Ban Groups of More Than 250 People

"It may sound extreme and it may sound frightening, but it could be the difference between saving lives and keeping people safe," Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said about sweeping new COVID-19 prevention measures

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What to Know

  • Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced drastic measures to try to limit the spread of COVID-19, including closing public schools
  • All gatherings of more than 250 people are banned and senior activity centers will be closed
  • Hogan said he is delegating "all non-essential, non-crisis-related functions of state government" to the lieutenant governor

All public schools in Maryland will be closed for two weeks, gatherings of more than 250 people are banned and the governor has activated the National Guard to a higher state of readiness.

Gov. Larry Hogan announced drastic safety measures Thursday afternoon to try to contain the spread of coronavirus.

Public schools will be closed March 16 through March 27, officials said.

All public schools in Maryland will be closed March 16 through March 27, gatherings of more than 250 people are banned and the governor has activated the National Guard to a higher state of readiness.

“During the time of school closure, all public school buildings and school buses should be cleaned and disinfected to prevent spread of the virus upon the return of students and staff to school," State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon said in a statement.

"It may sound extreme and it may sound frightening, but it could be the difference between saving lives and keeping people safe," Hogan said about the measures.

"My first and highest priority is protecting the health, safety and welfare of the people of Maryland," he continued.

Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO Dr. Monica Goldson said students will be given instructional packets, and there will not be remote learning.

“The reason for that is because I have 82,000 students who are on free or reduced meals, and I cannot guarantee that every child has technology and has access to the internet in order to continue that instructional program,” she said.

Montgomery County Public Schools officials outlined plans that appear to include online instruction.

“We have planned to provide resources that are created specifically for elementary, middle and high school students,” Montgomery County Public School Deputy Superintendent Dr. Monifa McKnight said. “So we will be sharing through our various communication methods exactly what those resources will be and how they will be accessed by all of our students.”

Both school districts are making plans to continue school meal programs.

The ban on large gatherings applies to all "social, community, religious, recreational or sports" events, the governor said. Go here to see the executive order on large gatherings.

All senior activity centers will be closed.

All non-essential state employees who are approved to telework will be required to telework. Public access to state buildings, including the statehouse, will be restricted.

Deputy Health Secretary Fran Phillips said the state was responding to a public health emergency with a coordinated response.

"These are extraordinary measures that you have heard announced today, and this is an extraordinary time," said Deputy Health Secretary Fran Phillips. "These are measures that have been undertaken with a great deal of consideration. … These are measures that are meant to protect Marylanders."

News4's Chris Gordon talks to a woman who teaches her children online.

All hospitals are advised to adopt stricter visitor policies, including limiting patients to only one adult visitor and excluding visitors who have traveled internationally recently.

All visitation to state prisons has been suspended.

The Cruise Maryland Terminal in Baltimore will be closed. There will be two exceptions, for two ships that are set to return to the port soon.

The governor extended the expiration dates for driver's licenses and state permits.

Hogan said he is delegating "all non-essential, non-crisis-related functions of state government" to Lt. Gov. Boyd Kevin Rutherford so Hogan can "focus his full attention on managing this state crisis."

Twelve cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Maryland, including the state's first case of community transmission. A Prince George's County resident was diagnosed after "no known exposure to coronavirus through travel or an infected individual," Hogan said in a statement.

The first case of community transmission indicates that "we are entering a new phase of working to mitigate and limit the spread of this pandemic," he said. "What we are seeing now is what we have been anticipating and preparing for over the last several weeks."

Prince George's County Bureau Chief Tracee Wilkins has updates on the coronavirus in the county.

Other patients contracted the virus on a trip to Boston, on cruises and while traveling out of the country. One patient is in his 20s and recently traveled to Spain.

Ohio also ordered schools to close. Gov. Mike DeWine the closure of schools for three weeks beginning Monday. He acknowledged the disruptions it will mean for families but said it's necessary to help prevent the spread of the virus. The announcement came as state Health Department Director Dr. Amy Acton issued an order banning gatherings of over 100 people.

Sporting events, White House tours and many other events in the Washington, D.C., area are canceled until further notice. Go here to see a full list of what's canceled, closed or postponed.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends these seven tips to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

Stay with News4 for more details on this developing story.

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