Maryland public schools will remain closed until at least April 24 in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus, State Superintendent Karen Salmon said Wednesday.
Speaking after Gov. Larry Hogan at a State House press conference, Salmon said state education leaders are looking into extending the school year as well.
“We want to make sure every student has the basics going forward these next four weeks,” Salmon said.
Hogan characterized the date as “aspirational” and suggested schools could remain closed far longer than a month.
“It would be wonderful if we get to the point where we bent the curve and we can [send kids back to school],” he said. “We simply don’t know how bad it’s going to get or how long it’s going to last. What we do know is it’s not going to be over in a matter of days or even weeks.”
The number of known cases in Maryland rose to 423 today, according to the Maryland Department of Health, including 53 in Baltimore City and 51 in Baltimore County.
Four Marylanders have died.
Hogan said that number reflects increased testing more than the true spread of the disease. He said the number of tests has increased from 50 per day to over 500 per day.
“The higher numbers don’t necessarily mean that the numbers are getting worse,” Hogan said. “It’s just a lot more people getting tested.”
First State Employee
Hogan also announced the first Maryland state employee died of the disease. He was a research professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, but lived in New York and was counted in that state’s total.
The victim was identified as Maurice Berger, age 63.
Hogan said the state received a large shipment of ventilators from FEMA, but it was still much less than Maryland had requested. He declined to say how many the state received.
In Baltimore on a rainy Wednesday morning, Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young urged residents to stay home and not to panic.
Baltimore Health Commissioner Letitia Dzirasa emphasized the need for social distancing in lieu of increased testing. She said if you extend your arms and can touch someone who’s also extending their arms, you’re too close.
“Social distancing remains the most important step everyone in our community can take at this time to decrease the number of people who become ill,” she said.
Behind her, Young and Police Commissioner Michael Harrison did just that, with Harrison scooting a bit farther away.
Later, Harrison sought to correct a rumor going around: He said no Baltimore City police officers had tested positive for the virus.