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Senior centers to close in Baltimore County

Move comes after first confirmed case of infection
Posted at 4:58 PM, Mar 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-12 17:23:28-04

TOWSON, Md. — There are no suspected cases of coronavirus at this senior center in Towson, and Baltimore County wants to keep it that way.

Just ask Richard Pyes, a retiree who works out at the Bykota center.

"They came while I was working out on a machine,” said Pyes. “One of the volunteers came around and told me that, effective Monday, they were closing all the senior centers."

The announced closures came as the county tries to limit exposure to the virus after learning of its first confirmed case.

"The individual is in his sixties and worked at the recent AIPAC conference in Washington DC. He is not hospitalized," said Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski.

It is believed the infected man has had limited contact with others since the conference, but there in lies the challenge for county health officials.

"It depends on how you want to define 'limited', right?, because most people don't live in a bubble, but at this particular time, we were able to kind of contact all of the people that we thought that person was in contact with and do the appropriate testing when necessary," said Baltimore County Health Director Dr. Gregory Branch.

In addition to closing the senior centers, the county is canceling all of its organized recreational activities, its remaining budget town halls and other public hearings.

They are moves applauded by some of the county's most vulnerable members.

"We are very concerned about this virus,” said Mary Mack, a retiree. “We live in a retirement community and even over there, people aren't coming to dinner, they're coming and getting their dinner and leaving, not eating in the dining room. We're told not to shake hands with anybody."

It is all part of the new normal, now that the global pandemic is hitting close to home.

"While we have confirmed the first Baltimore County case, it most certainly will not be the last," said Branch.

Thus far, 20 people in Baltimore County have been tested for the virus, and while one man has tested positive, the others have either come back negative or they're still pending.