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Montgomery County official warns on coronavirus: ‘It is here’

Montgomery County official warns on coronavirus: ‘It is here’

First case of community-spread virus reported
Montgomery County official warns on coronavirus: ‘It is here’
A screen capture from Tuesday's live stream briefing
Photographer: Montgomery County

Montgomery County announced its fourth case of coronavirus Tuesday, and the first known case of the virus from community spread.

In a somber Facebook live presentation, County Executive Matt Ossenfort, Public Health Director Sara Boerenko and Assistant Public Health Director Jessica Marotta presented the information about the new COVID-19 case. The three were seated at a long table with some social distance between each official.

“This is our first case where there is no clear connection to another case, which means it’s likely community spread,” Ossenfort said. “No one is immune, you might have it, you might display symptoms and pass it to someone else. The days of isolating cases, although we will continue to do that, and looking for those specific connections, solely, is over. We need to emphasize for folks in the region that it is here.”

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Ossenfort’s announcement represents a major shift for one of the rural counties in the greater Capital Region. He said that state has projected the potential “apex” of virus patients to be approximately 14 to 21 days away, and Montgomery County’s might be slightly beyond that.

“Right now, in the short term, as it relates to supplies, masks, gowns, things of that nature, we’re doing OK,” Ossenfort said. “So, this is not going away any time soon folks. Likely we will have to extend our state of emergency that is up at the end of the month, but we’re going to continue to serve as a conduit for information and resources for the state and federal government.”

Boerenko said the Health Department has been working on the outbreak since the weekend of the super bowl. She said the county has been lucky that the discovered cases have not been clustered together in a high risk area like a nursing home.

“They are sporadic, which means that our folks are listening, and I beg of you today to continue to listen to protect our senior citizens.”

Boerenko said she cannot reveal details about the identities of the four positive cases, but two of those infected have been in their homes and have not left the premises since being diagnosed.

Other new information presented Tuesday included:

-- Montgomery County currently has 100 people who have been placed on voluntary quarantine, primarily people who have had contact with one of the four people who have tested positive for the virus.

Ossenfort emphasized that people in the general public should not refer to themselves as having been quarantined, because doing so may confuse law enforcement and emergency management system personnel who have a strict set of guidelines for handling all individuals who have been placed on voluntary quarantine by the county Health Department.

-- Marotta said about 50 people from Montgomery County have been tested for COVID-19.

“We are still waiting for some of those results,” she said. “Initially when testing happened anybody who needed to be tested needed approval through the local health department, so we were able to really manage that very well, but [then] people were getting tested at various sites, so we are being very diligent in locating all of those tests and we’re filing those, and we’re ensuring that anybody who was tested is getting those results as soon as we get them.”

Boerenko said her department doesn’t have the information regarding county residents tested outside Montgomery County.

“Because those folks were not monitored through the [county] Health Department, we don’t have all of those folks who were tested, so that’s why when this all started it was really important that people maintain contact with the local health department, so that we could track with accuracy,” she said. “Once those tests are coming back negative, and we have those in our tracking system, we are getting a different number daily.”

-- Ossenfort encouraged all county residents to sign up for the county’s emergency management system hyper reach system, that allows calls and text alerts to be sent directly to county residents about emergency situations. 

This is the link to the sign-up page for the system: secure.hyper-reach.com/comsignup.jsp?id=8261.

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