DoCo officials live stream COVID-19 update

Dorchester Banner/Dave Ryan
County Deputy Health Officer Dr. Casey Scott said Thursday there were still no confirmed cases of coronavirus in Dorchester.

CAMBRIDGE — Dorchester County officials presented a live stream joint press conference on Thursday morning, to share details of the local response to the coronavirus pandemic. County Health Officer Roger Harrell, Deputy Health Officer Dr. Casey Scott, State’s Attorney for Dorchester County Bill Jones and Superintendent of Dorchester County Public Schools Dave Bromwell spoke in the meeting room of the Board of Education.

Opening the conference, Mr. Harrell said the group was following Gov. Larry Hogan’s directives, with no more than 10 individuals in the room. Participants practiced social distancing, staying at least six feet apart.
A statement from the Health Department said local officials had been collaborating to respond to the evolving public health emergency.

No immunity
“This particular disease we’re talking about it new,” Mr. Harrell said. “Nobody in the community really has an immunity.”
While the disease is similar to the flu in one of its methods of transmission — airborne respiratory droplets — it is different in significant ways. “For COVID-19, we don’t have a vaccine,” he said. “We don’t really know how to treat this.”

The virus can also be contracted through close personal contact such as shaking hands, or by touching surfaces that have the virus on them.
Mr. Harrell said in a situation like this, in public health, the next step is, “You go back to basics.” That means restricting gatherings, encouraging social distancing and frequent hand washing, among other practices.”
He said the state is blessed to have Gov. Hogan, as a leader who is willing to make tough decisions to protect citizens.

Dorchester County Deputy Health Officer Dr. Casey Scott spoke next, sharing the latest data as of 10 a.m. Thursday. She said at that time, there were 450,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide, with 61,000 in the United States. To find updated information on the number of cases, visit https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html

There were 580 confirmed cases in Maryland on Thursday morning, 157 more than on Wednesday. Three percent of the state’s cases are on the Eastern Shore.

“We still have zero confirmed cases here in Dorchester,” Dr. Casey said.
She said the Health Department can’t provide accurate numbers on how many local persons have been tested, but, “I can assure you, testing is being done here in Dorchester County.”

A reliable count isn’t yet available — though officials are working to assemble the data — because historically, Dr. Scott said, health care providers have submitted counts only of positive results. Currently, those tests are being conducted only on individuals with certain indications, such as a dry cough or a fever of 100.4 degrees.

Shortage of test kits
Supplies of the kits are also an issue. “There is still a lack of test kits nationwide, and we are feeling this locally,” Dr. Scott said.
The Center for Disease Control is not recommending testing for people who show no symptoms. Dr. Scott said if persons do exhibit symptoms, they should first call their health-care provider. They should refrain, she said, from immediately going to an emergency room, so that hospital facilities are kept clear for the most serious cases.

State’s Attorney for Dorchester County Bill Jones spoke about implementation of orders from Annapolis, including the ban on gatherings of 10 or more individuals. “The governor is serious about the enforcement of these measures,” he said.

He said his office recognizes that the orders represent a true hardship for many, especially the small and so-call non-essential businesses that have been ordered to close. Saying that penalties for defying the orders could reach a year in jail and a fine of $5,000, he said, “We are hoping to charge no one.”

Mr. Jones and his staff are working to interpret the orders to help county residents understand and follow the laws.

There is other information soon to come on how businesses can best navigate the new situation, with a webinar scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday, organized by local agencies including Dorchester County Economic Development (DCED). Sign-up information will be posted on DCED’s website on Friday, Mr. Jones said.
The state’s attorney also warned against falling for scams currently circulating. Some say people can pay for vaccines — there are no vaccines — and others ask for money or personal information for a stimulus check to be sent.
There is no requirement for cash up front or information for the receipt of a government check, Mr. Jones said.

Education continues
Mr. Bromwell said local schools and the state’s Department of Education are creating a system to provide continuity of instruction in Dorchester and across Maryland. “Our students and staff want to be back to work,” he said.
But with schools closed until at least April 24, administrators are left with the task of providing materials and instruction to students in Maryland’s largest county. To make it more challenging still, many of the young people have no laptops for online work, or no access to the internet.

“We’re going to begin pushing out hard-copy materials,” Mr. Bromwell said, in packets containing four weeks of assignments. There are also plans to distribute 1,000 computers and to create web access with hotspots at public schools.

Because some students live considerable distances from their schools, fire departments and businesses are cooperating with the plan to provide hotspots.
Food distribution will also continue. Many of the county’s children depend on school meals.

On Monday, the superintendent said, more than 800 bags of food were given to students at 13 distribution sites. With three meals in each bag, that represents 2,400 meals total.
As for school events later this spring, “I haven’t canceled anything yet,” Mr. Bromwell said.

Visit health.maryland.gov/coronavirus for updated information and resources about COVID-19 in Maryland. Dorchester County residents with general questions or concerns about COVID-19 can call the Dorchester County Health Department at 410-228-3223 Monday through Friday, 8am-4:30pm or 2-1-1 after hours, and follow Dorchester County Health Department’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/dorchesterhealthemergencypreparedness.


Helpful Coronavirus links

Maryland Department of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage

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