College and State Response to Confirmed COVID-19 Cases in Maryland

Written by Joseph McManus.

On Friday, March 6, President Tujuanda Jordan sent out an email message pertaining to new cases of COVID-19 discovered in Maryland. According to a memorandum distributed to all state employees from the Maryland Department of Health (MDH), three Maryland residents tested positive for the virus and were quarantined as of March 5. The Washington Post reported that all three individuals were Montgomery County residents.

In response to the presence of the virus in Maryland, President Jordan canceled the scheduled St. Mary’s Day on March 10, which was intended to promote civic discourse in anticipation of the 2020 Presidential election. On the cancellation of St. Mary’s Day, Jordan wrote, “This is an incredibly important activity for our community as it helps us navigate issues of inclusion that extend well beyond race and we sorely need help in doing that. Nonetheless, in spite of the fact that there have been no COVID-19 cases reported in Southern Maryland and to decrease the likelihood of mass exposure to a potentially infected individual, St. Mary’s Day will be re-scheduled to a later date.”

Despite the cancellation of the event, professors have been authorized to conduct classes as usual on Tuesday, though whether they choose to hold class is ultimately subject to their discretion.

Other college activities that have been canceled and suspended include all club trips that entail out-of-state travel to states “that have declared coronavirus-related emergencies” and all school sponsored international travel. The Programs Board trip to New York City which was scheduled to occur on March 7 was canceled as a result, among other events.

Dr. Jordan’s email also addressed restrictions on students, staff, and faculty who may be traveling to other affected areas over spring recess, suggesting they may be instructed to impose a 14-day self-isolation and to seek a medical diagnosis from a doctor before returning to the school.

Additionally, on March 5, Governor Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency in order to mobilize funding to the MDH and the Maryland Emergency Management Agency, according to the MDH memo. The MDH Memo also states that those who have been to geographic areas of concern and exhibit symptoms, and those hospitalized for “unexplained acute lower respiratory symptoms” are eligible for testing at the MDH facilities in Baltimore.

Other schools in affected areas have chosen to alter their regular activities in response to the virus, including the University of Washington. According to The New York Times, the University of Washington is holding the rest of its class sessions online until March 20, the end of their spring quarter.

As spring break approaches and students disperse throughout the country and abroad, the college’s response is likely to evolve as to how the rest of the semester should be conducted in light of the virus. Whether or not classes and college activities will continue as usual for the remainder of the semester after spring break remains to be seen.

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