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After coronavirus case confirmed in Harford, government and health officials say there’s no danger to community

Coronavirus update by Harford County Executive Barry Glassman

A Harford County woman who has been hospitalized with coronavirus didn’t show symptoms until six days after she returned from an overseas trip, health officials said Monday.

Harford County Health Officer Russell W. Moy said the 86-year-old did not leave her house after she returned home from the trip until she started feeling ill, when she went straight to the hospital.

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Gov. Larry Hogan specified that the woman contracted the virus while traveling to Turkey, at a Monday news conference in Annapolis. “This appears to be the first case of COVID-19 anywhere in the world to be associated with travel to Turkey," Hogan said.

At an earlier press conference with other county officials Monday in Bel Air, Moy declined to identify the person and where she was traveling from — leaving it that there is no danger to the community.

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"We are hopeful that based on the current information we have there will be no community mitigation recommendations made by the Maryland Department of Health,” Moy said.

Two other family members who drove the woman to the hospital are also in quarantine, Moy said. They are not showing symptoms.

Harford County government and health officials said the county will continue to operate as it usually does against the backdrop of its first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus.

Harford County confirmed its first case of coronavirus Sunday after Gov. Larry Hogan announced the respiratory virus had sickened two additional Marylanders, bringing the state’s total to five.

The woman tested positive for the illness after traveling overseas.

Asked if any of the other people on the plane with the woman were at risk, Moy said the disease is new and its contagiousness is still unknown. But because she did not show symptoms on the plane, she would not have met the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for an investigation.

The woman was not symptomatic on the plane, Moy said, and her first symptoms started six days after she landed. During that time, Moy said, she did not leave her house except to seek medical treatment.

Moy declined to say where the woman was being treated.

University of Maryland Medical System, which operates both Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in Bel Air and Harford Memorial Hospital in Havre de Grace, along with others throughout the region, confirmed Sunday that a COVID-19 patient was being treated at one of its hospitals.

The Harford County case is not connected to any of the other four confirmed cases of coronavirus in the state, all in Montgomery County.

Harford County Executive Barry Glassman said the county is working closely with the Maryland Department of Health — which is leading the state’s investigation into coronavirus cases — and does not plan on curtailing or limiting any of its services, though it does have a plan should that become necessary.

Superintendent of Harford County Public Schools Sean Bulson has been in contact with local principals to reemphasize the need for sick students to stay home. He said schools are also considering making allowance to perfect attendance records in view of the coronavirus scare.

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“We do not have plans to close schools or cancel activities at this time,” Bulson said, though he has asked schools to not add additional activities to their calendars.

Glassman will also meet with Gov. Larry Hogan to receive updates and coordinate response efforts.

“We will be operating how we normally do in Harford County,” he said at the Monday press conference.

The virus, originating in Wuhan, China, has sickened over 200,000 people and killed thousands, primarily in China, according to the Wold Health Organization.

Moy said people over 60 with chronic underlying conditions, people with compromised immune systems and those who have recently traveled to China, Iran, Italy, South Korea and Japan are at the most risk.

“This is a new and unpredictable public health topic,” Moy said, "but if it is addressed like other public health emergencies in the past, we will be OK.”

The virus in Maryland has been mostly confined to Montgomery County. Hogan announced last week that three people had tested positive for the virus after going on a cruise of the Nile River. Officials announced that another Montgomery County man tested positive and was briefly hospitalized alongside news of the Harford County resident testing positive for the virus.

State health officials said there were “no major concerns over exposure risk to the community,” from the two newest cases.

Still, concerns over the virus’ spread have rippled through Harford County.

The John Carroll School, which planned to host a Holocaust remembrance day on this coming Wednesday, had to modify their programming. Holocaust survivors were scheduled to speak, but fears of the virus coupled with the vulnerability of senior citizens made them reconsider. With some speakers pulling out of the event, the school will show a selection of movies.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends avoiding contact with sick people, covering mouths when sneezing and washing hands to prevent the virus’ spread.

The officials also warned against misinformation on social media and encouraged citizens to get updates from credible resources like the CDC and the Maryland Department of Health.

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