St. Mary’s County has received its first confirmed case of the new coronavirus known as COVID-19.
As numbers of positive cases throughout the state have increased by the dozens every week, St. Mary’s health department sent a press release Saturday afternoon, March 21, that the first county resident to test positive is a woman in her 20s, currently self-isolating.
Dr. Meena Brewster, health officer for St. Mary’s health department, spoke at a press conference late Saturday afternoon at the government building in Leonardtown along with Commissioner President Randy Guy (R) and Steve Walker, director of the county’s emergency services. She said her department is actively investigating to see if the patient has been a risk to other county residents by “reaching out to everyone who was in close contact.”
“As testing locally expands, we expect to see a significant rise in positive cases of COVID-19,” Brewster said
MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital has started a drive-through testing mechanism, which will restart next week starting Monday from noon to 4 p.m.
She later added there are plans statewide to have more drive-through testing sites, and St. Mary’s health department is working with local primary care offices to offer testing at those facilities.
“Despite a national shortage of testing supplies, we have been working to expand testing locally,” she said.
She added that testing works best when an individual has symptoms like shortness of breath, a fever and a cough. If a person has mild symptoms, it is best to stay home and away from others.
Brewster said she has visited every nursing home in the county and is “confident their actions have been well thought out and ready and prepared for what may be ahead.”
Brewster added it is imperative to continue to protect seniors and those who have chronic illnesses.
She later said if the governor implemented a shelter-in-place order, it would make a great impact and they would try to maximize distancing people who are ill.
“At this time, the most important action our community can take is following the prevention strategy,” she added.
She reminded listeners to wash their hands, cover their cough, stay more than 6 feet away from one another, especially if that person is sick and older than 60, and to avoid gatherings of 10 people or more.
Walker said there are some cases where people are having cookouts and other events, where sheriff's deputies have had to have discussions with residents, but for the most part, people are following the social distancing rules.
Brewster said the health department staff has been "working 24/7" while reducing certain services so staff can fully pay attention to the pandemic.
The health department said residents can call its hotline at 301-475-4911 Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. if they have questions or concerns.
“We may see significant impacts in the weeks and months ahead, but I’m confident we’ve done everything we can,” Brewster said.
“Ladies and gentlemen, please, please don’t panic. Please stay calm,” Walker said.
“We area all in this together and together we will get through this,” Guy said.
The press conference followed an earlier release from the health department that day that announced a Washington, D.C., resident who works at MedStar St. Mary's Hospital had tested positive for the disease. That individual is a woman in her 40s who is isolating in her D.C. home, is currently symptomatic, and is being monitored by the D.C. health department.