Mass. Health Officials Announce Presumptive Case of Coronavirus

The patient is a woman in her 20s who lives in Norfolk County who had recently traveled to Italy

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Massachusetts health officials announced a presumptive case of coronavirus Monday night.

The patient is a woman in her 20s who lives in Norfolk County, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. She recently returned from Italy with a school group and she was exhibiting symptoms.

If the woman is confirmed to have it, this would be the second positive COVID-19 case in Massachusetts.

"We are grateful this individual is recovering," Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel said in a statement. "We understand the concern this new virus is causing, and our state's ability to quickly test for the virus is a positive development."

The risk of the new coronavirus spreading in Massachusetts remains low, Bharel reiterated Monday night, even with the new presumptive case in the Bay State and positive tests in nearby Rhode Island and New Hampshire. Gov. Charlie Baker said the same of the risk level earlier in the day.

Gov. Charlie Baker said that Massachusetts is getting ready for more cases of the new coronavirus as Rhode Island and New Hampshire announced they were contending with cases of their own.

But preparations continue, officials said, in case the state has to step up its response to the outbreak. The state of Washington has — it's seen all six U.S. deaths associated with the new virus.

"While the risk remains low in the commonwealth, it is possible that we will see more cases, and we're preparing for it," Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders said earlier Monday.

The officials stressed thorough handwashing — Sudders even demonstrated it — and other basic hygiene to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, known as COVID-19. It's the same way to prevent yourself from getting the flu, which remains a much bigger immediate threat for Massachusetts residents, they said.

During a coronavirus preparedness briefing for Massachusetts with Gov. Charlie Baker, Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders showed the right way to wash your hands — it's a lot longer than how most people do it. Sudders also explained other simple ways to prevent the transmission of the new coronavirus.

The only confirmed case of COVID-19 in Massachusetts was a student at the University of Massachusetts Boston who returned from Wuhan, China, in early February. He is recovering well, officials said Monday.

Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel said that, in Massachusetts, the risk that a person will get the new coronavirus remains closely tied to their recent travel history or if they were in close contact with someone who was confirmed to have it. A person's nationality is not considered a risk.

The officials also emphasized they are working on around the clock in case more residents get the virus and are in constant contact with federal and local health officials to coordinate the best responses.

"The facts are going to change, and as the facts change, people need to change with them," Baker said.

The stock market dropped heavily last week on fears about the effects on the local economy and some Massachusetts residents have been stocking up on supplies in case they are asked to self-quarantines like ones seen in China, the origin of the outbreak.

As Massachusetts prepares for a possible local coronavirus outbreak, Gov. Charlie Baker took questions on the , noting his experience dealing with the Great Recession and the heavy snow that fell in 2015

Asked about the potential impacts on the economy and daily life in the Bay State, Baker pointed to his experiences navigating the state through a bear market early in his first term and the 2015 snowstorms that rocked the state for a month, leading to a week without school for some people.

"We played our way through it," Baker said of the blizzards, adding that he'll be relying on experts' advice through this new, evolving situation.

The officials pointed anyone looking for more information about how to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the current risk level in Massachusetts and more to visit a new state website with that information and more.

Baker spoke to reporters briefly on Monday morning about the steps the state is taking.

“The game plan here is to make sure we are doing all the surveillance we need to do, that we are in a position to conduct testing as appropriate and that we have a public health and a health care system that are able and ready to deal with this as it moves forward," Baker said.

No deaths have been reported in the United States but there are now 60 confirmed cases. With concerns mounting in places like Boston, city and state officials are preparing for the worst just in case.

While there has only been one confirmed local case, on Monday, Newton school officials asked 19 students, two staff members and a retired teacher to self-quarantine after three weeks spent on a monthlong exchange program in Florence, Italy.  

Cohasset police also said they were notified on Monday by their local health department that the state Department of Public Health had quarantined a resident of the Massachusetts town due to alleged “close contact” with a person suffering from the coronavirus.

The precautionary move was welcomed by other students.

"I think it shows that the school’s concerned about what's going on and that they're actually trying to do something about it," Newton North junior Erik Skerl said.

While the World Health Organization just increased the risk of the coronavirus spreading, concerns of the virus are having a impact on the PAX East gaming convention in Boston.

Baker signified his own approval for the move Monday, saying, "I certainly think that people who are coming back from areas that have a high level of presence of this virus, some sort of stay-at-home type, quarantine type, is probably not a bad idea."

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