County Executive Calvin Ball gathered top officials from the County, the Howard County Health Department, and the Howard County General Hospital to address Howard County’s coronavirus prevention and preparedness efforts. There are currently no confirmed coronavirus cases in Howard County or the state of Maryland. Updates from the Howard County Health Department on the coronavirus can be found on the County website, or here. Photos can be found here. Video can be found here.
“While there are currently no confirmed cases in our state, we want to assure our residents that we are prepared to prevent and limit the spread of coronavirus,” said Ball. “Our government, Health Department, and Howard County General Hospital are all working together to provide updates, ensure our community is informed on precautionary measures, and are coordinated to limit exposure should a case arise.”
Howard County Health Department (HCHD) has been actively engaged in reviewing existing plans if a local response is needed, participating in regular briefings with the CDC and State, and communicating to Howard County clinicians to ensure they are equipped to respond. The Health Department has also developed guidance for our many local partners and agencies, public and private schools, providers, businesses, and the public. Additionally, there is a warmline (410-313-6284) to respond to questions from the community. For residents that may have contracted coronavirus and need to be tested – officials urged use of the warmline provided by the Health Department.
“While the public health risk posed by the 2019 Coronavirus to Howard County residents remains low, the Health Department remains in close contact with local, state and federal partners to carefully monitor the situation and keep the public informed,” said Howard County Health Officer Dr. Maura Rossman. “We continue to encourage residents to practice every day preventative measures to limit the spread of this virus and make preparations to be able to stay home comfortably to care for themselves or a loved one.”
All officials stressed simple habits and recommendations to reduce the risk of transmission including: washing your hands with soap and water, covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing, and staying home if you are sick.
HCHD will also host three community presentations at Howard County libraries over the next week – the community can access these presentations remotely via livestream. The presentations will cover current developments, local planning efforts, and everyday preventive actions to help limit the spread of this virus.
“Howard County General Hospital has been preparing for the possibility of caring for patients with this virus. We have a team of infectious disease and intensive care physicians and nursing staff who are constantly reviewing and practicing processes and protocols,” said M. Shafeeq Ahmed, M.D., Chief Medical Officer and Vice President of Medical Affairs for Howard County General Hospital. “We are also able to coordinate and plan with Johns Hopkins Medicine, so our community should take great comfort that their local hospital is fully prepared to handle all kinds of illnesses.”
County officials also emphasized the importance of accessing accurate information, citing the Center from Disease Control, the Howard County or State Health Department, and other official sources.
“With the support of the Howard County Police Department, our 911 call takers, telecommunicators, firefighters and paramedics are taking safety precautions from the initial 911 phone call to patient treatment, care and transport,” said Interim Fire Chief William Anuszewski. “Our leadership team has been actively reviewing our department’s pandemic response plan, which includes issues of continuity of operations, workforce sustainment and operational considerations such as staffing models.”
Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) referenced their previous communications sent earlier this week, and affirmed that the schools have enough soap, paper towels, and hand sanitizer available to students and staff. Officials also stressed the importance of proactive habits extending beyond school buildings.
“The safety of our students and staff is our number one priority and drives our decision making on closing specific schools or all schools,” said Dr. Michael Martirano, Superintendent of HCPSS. “We will continue to amplify the information, resources, recommendations and guidance shared by the Health Department with parents, who we encourage to reinforce with their children the importance of regular hand washing because a good defense is the best way to prevent the spread of any virus.”
“We take the potential impact of the coronavirus very seriously and will do everything in our power to make sure that our neighbors and residents are engaged with current and comprehensive information on ways to protect themselves,” said Jacqueline R. Scott, Director of the Howard County Department of Community Resources and Services. “We will get through this period with the traits that make Howard County one of the great places to live anywhere in America – civility, integrity and compassion.”
Watch the video of the press conference here: