ANNAPOLIS — Marylanders returning from New York and surrounding area are being asked to self-quarantine under a new set of directives meant to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
The new directive from Gov. Larry Hogan comes at the same time that state education officials announced they will continue a statewide closure of public schools for another four weeks — through April 24 — and warned that another extension is possible.
“The reality is this crisis is really just beginning here in our state and across the country,” said Hogan. “People are looking for certainty, but the truth is we simply just don’t know how bad it’s going to get or how long it’s going to last or how successful these social distancing actions are going to be in flattening the curve. What we do know is it’s not going to be over in a matter of days or even weeks.”
Hogan said the call to self-quarantine is based on the latest information and guidelines from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As of Wednesday, there were 423 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maryland touching 22 of the state’s 24 jurisdictions.
“It means that we’re testing more people,” said Hogan. We don’t have enough data to know exactly what it means. It’s not as alarming as it sounds.”
Of those cases, 17 have fully recovered and are out of isolation, according to Deputy Health Secretary Fran Phillips.
The state has recorded four COVID-19 related deaths since the first three cases were reported on March 5.
The governor also announced that he has asked President Donald Trump to declare Maryland a disaster area, making the state eligible for additional federal resources and money.
Additionally, the governor said he’s expecting an infusion of money from the federal government as part of a stimulus package approved by the House and Senate.
Hogan said states got less than the 50% of the $1 trillion package they were seeking.
“We’re going to go back and ask for additional funding for state and local governments to help with the crisis in the next round of stimulus,” said Hogan.
State Schools Superintendent Karen Salmon confirmed on Wednesday that public schools would continue to be closed through most of April.
The decision was not an easy one, she said.
“We have a responsibility to ensure the health and safety of our school communities and the community at large,” said Salmon.
Students have been home for the better part of two weeks. Salmon said local school systems are working on rolling out education plans that will be available to parents and students possibly as early as next week.
“We want to make sure that every student has the basics this next four weeks,” Salmon said.
Other states, including neighboring Virginia, have closed schools for the year. Salmon said she and the state board would continue to reassess the situation as May approaches. She added that officials will also consider other options including the possibility of summer school to complete the academic year.
Hogan also differed with President Donald Trump on how quickly the country could return to normal.
Trump, speaking on Tuesday, said he would “love to have the country opened up and raring to go by Easter.”
“I’m a hopeful guy and I would certainly love to have this all resolved as quickly as possible,” said Hogan. “But I don’t think anyone can predict what this virus is going to do. You can’t put a time frame on saving people’s lives. We’re going to make decisions based on the scientists and the facts.”