Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday he will release a plan next week on steps Massachusetts is taking to prepare for a possible outbreak of a new virus spreading around the world.
Baker told reporters that since the beginning of the month there have been daily conversations among the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health departments about the COVID-19. The Republican said he's also been calls for governors with the CDC and the federal Department of Health and Human Services.
He said the federal government has already taken steps to screen those arriving in the U.S. from affected regions.
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"I would expect that by the beginning of next week we'll probably have a fully formulated plan that we can show people," Baker said. "But again I would point out that here in Massachusetts, based on the data and the information and the guidance that we've received so far, this remains a low threat."
He also said the state has been helping monitor people in self-quarantine in their homes to see if they showed symptoms of the virus. Of the 608 who were under self-quarantine, 377 have already completed their monitoring and have been released without symptoms.
The monitoring typically extends over a 14-day period during. If there are no symptoms after that period, the individual is determined to be in the clear.
There has been a single case of COVID-19 in Massachusetts. The man, who is in his 20s and a student at the University of Massachusetts Boston, had traveled to Wuhan, China, and sought medical care soon after his return.
"That patient is doing well and continues to recover in self-quarantine," Bharel told reporters. COVID-19 is caused by a member of the coronavirus family that's a close cousin to the SARS and MERS viruses that have caused outbreaks in the past.
"There's still only been one confirmed case of the coronavirus in the city of Boston and right now the general risk to Bostonians is very low," Marty Martinez, the city's Health and Human Services chief. "We're preparing for scenarios where we have a health emergency that we need to think about our public facilities and our workforce and everything that's in front of us, we're preparing for them all."
The Boston Public Health Commission stresses that besides the one confirmed case, none of the 33 people who are being monitored under CDC guidelines in Boston have shown any symptoms.
"They're instructed to take their temperatures a number of times during the day and if they develop any symptoms like cough, fever, body aches, we're in constant communication with them," said BPHC Interim Executive Director Rita Nieves.
The preparation comes as the PAX East gaming convention gets underway, bringing thousands of people into the city.
Health officials say that while the risk of coronavirus being transmitted at the convention is low, the risk of the flu is high, and people are being reminded to take precautions.
Baker was also asked about what steps, if any, the Boston Athletic Association, which organizes the Boston Marathon, should be considering since the race draws runners from around the globe. Organizers of the Tokyo Marathon say it will be limited to elite runners and wheelchair athletes because of concerns of the virus.
Baker said his guess is that the association would talk to federal authorities and others about the right way to deal with concerns — but also that the organization has some time to make a decision.
Federal health officials have said the new virus, which emerged in December in Wuhan, China, has sickened at least 60 people in the United States. A total of more than 81,000 cases around the world — mainly in China — have been reported and killed 2,700 globally.