Three more Marylanders who took Nile River cruises recently tested positive for the novel coronavirus Tuesday, bringing the state’s total case count to nine people, state officials said.
They now include a woman in her 60s from Montgomery County and a couple in their 50s from Prince George’s County. The three were among a group of six state residents that health officials reached out to because they took cruises on the same ship that was tied to Maryland’s first three cases of COVID-19, announced last week.
No information was immediately available about whether they might have exposed anyone else to the virus.
Late Monday, officials also revealed that a Prince George’s County woman in her 50s contracted the virus during a Feb. 25-27 trip to Boston. Officials said that, according to an initial investigation into her case by the Maryland Department of Health, there are no major concerns for exposure risk to the community and that there is no connection to other positive cases.
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The patient is at home and in good condition, according to Gov. Larry Hogan’s office. Her family is also quarantined, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said.
That brings the state’s county-by-county totals to five in Montgomery, three in Prince George’s and one in Harford County.
To prevent further spread of the virus, Hogan said Tuesday that the state is recommending nursing homes and retirement communities take further precautions to protect residents and is asking students at University System of Maryland institutions to prepare to stay home two weeks or more beyond their upcoming spring break.
The University of Maryland Medical System said Tuesday that visitors to its 13 hospitals and other health care facilities will be screened and limited in an effort to keep the virus at bay.
The outbreak already is affecting workplaces, too. As a precaution, after one employee at the state Attorney General’s central office in Baltimore “fell ill recently,” the staff there were asked to work from home, spokeswoman Raquel Coombs said Tuesday.
“There have been no confirmed cases of any employee having the virus,” she added.
As many as 100 people a day can now be tested for the coronavirus in Maryland, and the state has a stockpile of about 800 test kits, said Fran Phillips, the state’s deputy health secretary for public health. Initial tests were sent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
The number of available test kits is growing, with an order for 1,000 more for the lab, Phillips said.
Still, the state is struggling with the logistics of testing Marylanders and expanding testing capacity, state Health Secretary Robert Neall told the University System of Maryland Board of Regents on Tuesday. With more people needing testing, officials in the state, like their counterparts across the nation, have been trying to have tests performed in private labs as well.
“Quest and LabCorp have initiated capacity,” Neall said of the nation’s largest public lab companies. “We have not solved all the problems about where to get tested and who is testing you.”
Neall said he hopes to have testing up to speed when the virus begins spreading in the community.
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Several of Maryland’s federal lawmakers said Tuesday that while they believe the state will soon have adequate testing capacity, they were frustrated residents generally don’t know how to get tested.
“The biggest issue — and I think the one that’s on the minds of our constituents — is if you feel like you’re experiencing these symptoms, how do you get tested?” U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen said.
Hogan said the state has not faced any shortage of tests, despite concerns that early federal rules on testing drastically limited who was eligible for screening.
“We’re going to be dramatically widening the number of people that will be able to get tested,” the governor said. “It hasn’t been an issue, and hopefully will not.”
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As testing expands, case counts are expected to continue to rise. There were 1 million test kits available across the country on Monday, and that number is expected to quadruple by the end of the week, Hogan said.
“It is going to get worse before it gets better,” he said.
Baltimore Sun reporters Liz Bowie, Justin Fenton, Pamela Wood and McKenna Oxenden contributed to this article.