MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. - On Friday, Montgomery County’s Chief Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles told FOX 5 the first three people to test positive for Coronavirus in the state of Maryland have recovered and are able to resume their normal lives.
Governor Larry Hogan had announced the three, a married couple in their 70s and an unrelated woman in her 50s, contracted the virus while traveling on a Egyptian Nile River cruise. One of the patients, afterword, had visited a Rockville retirement community during the hours of noon to 6 p.m. on February 28th, causing panic and concern within the greater Rockville and Montgomery County communities.
The retirement community involved, The Village at Rockville, also announced that it was monitoring patients' symptoms until Friday, March 13, despite no residents or staff members testing positive for COVID-19 following that Feb. 28 event.
A spokesperson with National Lutheran Communities and Services sent an email to FOX 5 praising staff and residents for their resiliency during this time:
“Our community remains free of any symptoms or cases of COVID-19; our window of time for the screenings extends through 6 p.m. today,” read a portion of the email. The Spokesperson also told FOX 5, “at that point the Maryland Department of Health’s mandatory screenings will be complete. Understanding that the risk of a future coronavirus exposure remains possible, we continue to focus on protecting the residents and team members of The Village at Rockville with precautions of visitation limitations and continued education on best practices on the prevention of spreading any illness.”
The news comes as Montgomery County leaders encourage people to practice “social distancing” as schools prepare to close for two weeks – and state employees prepare to telework.
What is Social Distancing? FOX 5 took that question straight to Montgomery County’s top doctor, Chief Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles.
“I mean we’ve got guidelines to say 3-6 ft. stay away from people. But it’s really the quality and duration and level of interaction that you have with some. So, you know, am I walking past you, am I hugging you? Am I sharing a confined space with you for a significant period of time? Am I providing health care services to you where I may come into contact with the droplets that you express? So a lot of those factors influence how we determine your risk factors. So social distancing, if you do have social distancing with someone, you cut down the possibility of coming into contact with something,” said Dr. Gayles.
Can students hang out during their two weeks off? Should parents organize play dates? Do people still go out to restaurants?
On students: Dr. Gayles says MCPS students play a role in keeping coronavirus exposure down. He tells FOX 5, while COVID-19 is not hitting children as hard, they should think about who they are exposing themselves to. Another county health leader says to think about who you have at home, maybe a grandparent or sibling with underlying health conditions, and maybe limit your activity for them.
County health leaders say they want people to patron their businesses, but also use your own judgement. Definitely wash your hands often when dealing with cash and credit cards.
“Interestingly, the research shows that if an individual is asymptomatic, particularly in the early stages, after coming or being exposed, is that they’re not considered to be contagious, and so that is the guidance that CDC and states have been using to determine the level of exposures and risk if folks have been part of contact investigations,” added Dr. Gayles, “So that’s important to point out to folks to alleviate some of the concern they may have if they think they came into contact with an individual who tests positive in the future.”
If you don’t have health insurance or a primary care doctor, Montgomery County health leaders say to still get help. Find an urgent care and call their doctor or call an emergency room ahead if you need to go in, regardless of insurance. Health professionals say it is very important to seek care if you feel symptoms – especially if you recently traveled to an impacted area.
Those in need of health guidance can also contact the Montgomery County Department of Disease Control and Epidemiology at (240) 777-1755 or the Maryland Department of Health Infection Disease Bureau at (410) 767-6700.