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Baltimore City officials prepare for possible coronavirus outbreak

Baltimore City coronavirus emergency response plan
Posted at 5:22 PM, Mar 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-12 06:17:08-04

BALTIMORE — Baltimore Mayor Jack Young said he's holding several cabinet meetings to prepare the city for any possible cases of the coronavirus.

There are no cases of the coronavirus in Baltimore yet but city officials are not waiting for a case to hit the city to take action.

Young told reporters he has gathered the heads of several city agencies together to run through three exercises to test city departments on how they would work to keep people in Baltimore safe in the event of an outbreak.

The city's emergency response plan begins with a request from Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa.

"If you have recently traveled to a Level Three CDC travel advisory country, that has widespread ongoing community transmission of COVID-19, we are asking that you stay home for 14 days from the time of your arrival back into Baltimore city to self monitor for symptoms,"Dzirasa said.

"Returning travelers should take these steps to monitor their health, and practice social distancing while isolating themselves for two weeks. Take your temperature with a thermometer two times a day and monitor for development of a fever greater than 100.4. Also monitor for cough or heavy breathing," Dzirasa added.

Anyone experiencing those symptoms should call a doctor as Baltimore City Fire Chief Niles Ford said to save calling 911 for emergencies only.

"If people use the system in an improper way, as we evolve into what we think we could possibly evolve into, they could exacerbate our system. We want to be in the position that if someone has a heart attack on the west side of Baltimore that we have the resources to send them to that call," Ford said.

Baltimore City Schools CEO Dr. Sonja Santelises said all school sponsored out of state and international travel is canceled for students and staff from now until June 15th. However, since there are no cases of the coronavirus in Baltimore, she also said there's no need to cancel classes just yet.

"We have a team ready of our best custodians around, disinfecting a building. In the event that we have to go to that level, operations has been ensuring that all buses are being cleaned and sanitized twice daily," Santelises said.

Santelises will take her lead from the Health Department on when or if it would be necessary to close schools but many recognize students get more than an education at school. It's also where some kids get their meals.

"We are also working very closely with the city's emergency food working group to be able to identify the safest approach, a coordinated approach to the feeding of children and families in the event of school closures," Santelises said.

Baltimore City Food Policy Director Holly Freishtat said "in the event that schools should close, whether it is an isolated environment or larger, we're working on senior feeding. We're also looking at because we have a large percentage of adults and families who are food secure, or on snap food stamps. We're also looking at food distribution."

Meanwhile, the city is taking a look at policies for city employees who may need to take a leave of absence.

Baltimore City Director of Human Resources Quinton Herbert said "to ensure that our employees that are sick can stay at home, employees who need to stay at home with sick children can do that, and we're being more flexible with our employees to ensure that they have that ability to stay home when necessary."