EASTON — Talbot County Health Officer Dr. Fredia Wadley confirmed at a press conference the county has its first confirmed case of COVID-19 virus.

Local officials and elected leaders held the presser on Sunday, March 15, at the Talbot County Emergency Operations Center on Port Street in Easton.

Following that confirmation, County Council President Corey Pack announced that Talbot County will declare a local state of emergency on Monday, March 16.

The patient was hospitalized after coming into contact with a person in another county infected with the COVID-19 virus. When the Talbot County resident developed symptoms, they were tested and found to be positive for the virus. The other county was not identified.

“Staff from the health department are contacting those who have been exposed to this person and, if they have symptoms, we are asking them to take appropriate measures,” Wadley said. “The proven public health method of managing the spread of such an infection is to identify cases and then isolate them and the people with whom they have had contact.”

To support the health department’s efforts in leading this response, Talbot County Emergency Services has activated its Emergency Operations Center. This coalition of community partners is working together to coordinate the county’s response and disseminate information about this public health crisis.

“We are in frequent contact with county and state officials and our private-sector partners,” Director of Emergency Services Clay Stamp said. “We are reviewing plans and deciding the best course of action to keep the residents of Talbot County safe and informed.”

Stamp wanted to point out the need for a balance between overreacting and underreacting. He said people should consider about how this virus has progressed.

“Think about it,” Stamp said. “In the last sixty days, it has moved around the whole globe.

The Talbot County EOC will be releasing information about the virus, including any new confirmed cases. Staff are currently posting information on the Talbot County Emergency Services website and on the DES Facebook page as it becomes available.

The department also expects to launch a dedicated COVID-19 website this week that will summarize all of the county information and will allow hourly updates when indicated to keep residents informed. At the conference, Pack said they anticipate the website will go live on Tuesday, March 17.

“Our goal is to provide you with information that is timely, accurate and credible,” Stamp said. “As soon as new cases are confirmed, we will immediately update the website and our Facebook page to reflect the number of confirmed cases in our county.”

Having a proven case of the virus in Talbot County of a person who has not traveled internationally elevates officials' concerns. Healthcare professionals stress that elderly people with chronic conditions and those with weakened immune systems should avoid crowds and people who are sick.

“This new development underscores the need for increased testing,” Wadley said. “Anyone experiencing flu-like symptoms such as cough, fever, and shortness of breath should call their primary care physician immediately.”

Wadley addressed the issues with testing. She explained that even with private labs now able to conduct testing, there are still issues that are being worked out.

“The choke point there, is that someone needs to take a swab that comes down from the nose to the throat, put in in a viral media and then wrap it accordingly to ship it to the lab,” Wadley said. “It's the limit of that viral media that has slowed the testing.”

Wadley emphasized that persons who have these symptoms should call their primary care physician rather than visit their office or a clinic. Stamp added that if the symptoms become severe, they can call 911.

Talbot County government offices will be closed to the public effective Tuesday, March 17. All staff will report for duty as assigned and will be answering phone calls and emails.

Talbot County Public Schools Superintendent Kelly Griffith spoke about the availability of meals for Talbot County children during the school closure.

“Any children from ages 2 through 18, every day between 9 and 11 a.m., they can come to Easton Middle School or St. Michaels Middle High School to pick up a breakfast and lunch during that time,” she said.

Griffith added that CarePacks will be providing weekend meals for the children on Fridays during the meal pickup times.

Talbot County officials are also working on standing up childcare centers for school-aged children of essential and mission-critical employees.

Wadley said they're working on finalizing the details, but they still need more information.

“We do need to know a number and the ages of children that will be attending,” she said. “We'll be announcing the plans so that parents will know who to call and how they can apply.”

For information about Talbot County’s response to the coronavirus COVID-19, log on to talbotdes.org or visit the TalbotDES Facebook page.

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