Nation’s capital and region hit by coronavirus outbreak

Officials in Massachusetts said late Sunday that there are 15 new coronavirus cases in the state, including a parent of an elementary school student in the state that will be closed on Monday.

The Boston Herald reported that the cases can be linked back to a Biogen conference last month at a hotel in the state. The report said that 23 of the state’s 28 cases could be linked to the conference. The company has since told its employees to work from home, according to MarketWatch.

State officials insist that the risk of COVID-19 to the public remains low.

“There is currently no evidence of community transmission in Boston,” the city’s public health commission said, according to the paper. “The risk remains low, but this situation is evolving rapidly and changes from day to day.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last reported that there are 164 cases in the U.S. The CDC said 19 states are reporting cases and 11 people died.

The nation’s capital and its surrounding area were dragged over the weekend into the coronavirus outbreak as a senior leader of a prominent Episcopal church in Washington, D.C., was identified as the first person in the city to test positive for the virus.

The Rev. Timothy Cole, the rector of Christ Church Georgetown, was in stable condition after being hospitalized Saturday night, according to a statement Sunday from the Rev. Crystal Hardin, the assistant rector. The church has suspended all activities.

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There have been several cases reported in the city and the surrounding area in recent days.

Maryland reported two new cases on Sunday, raising to five the total confirmed cases in the state. Virginia reported its second case.

According to Christ Church Georgetown website, Cole has been the rector since September 2016, is married and has two children. “Out of an abundance of caution, Christ Church has canceled all activities including church services until further notice. We recommend that concerned community members contact their health care providers,” the statement said.

Health officials said they had determined as part of their investigation that “an individual’s visitation to Christ Church Georgetown warrants precautionary measures” and they recommended a temporary halt to services. In response, the church publicly identified Cole as the victim.

Officials on Saturday had announced the district’s first positive test, but identified the victim only as a man in his 50s. A second local positive test involves a man who visited the Washington area from Nigeria, but he was being hospitalized in Maryland, Mayor Muriel Bowser said.

The Washington mayor’s office said a city high school linked to the second case is staying closed Monday, though no new confirmed coronavirus cases have been reported. Three people who stayed at the same house as the Nigerian man who tested positive in Maryland were tested Sunday and all were negative. But one of them works at School Without Walls High School, which is remaining closed to give staff time to communicate with staff and parents and to clean the school.

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In Maryland’d new cases, a Harford County resident in her 80s who contracted the virus while traveling overseas was hospitalized, officials said. A Montgomery County resident in his 60s who contracted the virus while traveling overseas was also briefly hospitalized.

Virginia recorded its first case Saturday when a Marine stationed at Fort Belvoir and living at the Quantico base was found to have the virus. On Sunday, Virginia officials announced a second case involving a Fairfax man in his 80s who took a Nile River cruise.

Dr. Benjamin Schwartz, director of epidemiology and population health for the Fairfax County health department, said the Fairfax man developed systems of respiratory illness on Feb. 28 and was hospitalized on March 5. He remains hospitalized but is in stable condition and not in an intensive care unit, Schwartz said.

“Fortunately, the individual had limited contact with others while ill, and therefore the risk to the general Fairfax community remains low,” said the county’s health director, Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensa.

Virginia state epidemiologist Dr. Lilian Peake said testing for the Fort Belvoir case was done at Walter Reed medical center, and testing for the Fairfax resident was done at a state lab in Richmond.

“The two cases are not related,” Peake said. “At this point, there are no signs of the virus spreading in the community in Virginia.”