BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- The three Maryland patients who tested positive for coronavirus were on a cruise when they contracted the illness, according to a Montgomery County official.
A married couple in their 70s and an unrelated woman in her 50s, all from Montgomery County, are the first patients to test positive for coronavirus in the state.
County Chief Health Officer Dr. Travis Gaynes said the patients, who were not traveling together, were on a cruise when they contracted the illness, but that it was not affiliated with the Port of Baltimore.
"These individuals were not on a cruise associated with Baltimore," Gaynes said.
Due to privacy concerns for the patients, he wouldn't elaborate any further, including naming the facility where the patients were tested. He did say however the staff took precautions for themselves and for the other people in the facility at the time they were tested.
Gaynes said the patients did experience symptoms when they returned to Maryland and sought medical attention at the time.
At a news conference Friday evening, Gov. Larry Hogan said all three patients contracted the virus on the M.S. Asara, a cruise ship that was on the Nile River in Egypt.
"This does appear to be the same cruise ship that the World Health Organization announced today has 12 workers who have been placed in quarantine for 14 days," Hogan said.
The three confirmed Maryland cases also appear to be linked to six COVID-19 cases in Texas, the governor said.
The travelers returned to the U.S. on February 20, but weren't tested until March 4. Gaynes said that was due to the fact that at the time of their return, China was the only country where travelers were being tested.
But those testing guidelines have changed over the last week and several other countries have been added.
After returning from the cruise, one of the patients attended an event near Philadelphia during which they came in contact with students and staff from a local school.
"Out of an abundance of caution, the Central Bucks County School District in the Philadelphia suburbs made the decision to close five local schools today," Hogan said.
Another one of the patients attended an event last Saturday at the Village at Rockville retirement community. That person came into contact with between 70 and 100 people.
"Due to the scale of that gathering, we are urging anyone who attended an event last Saturday, February 29, at the Village at Rockville between noon and 6 p.m. to immediately contact your health care provider or contact the Maryland Emergency Management Agency call center at 410-517-3720," Hogan said.
Anyone who may have recently visited the retirement community and is experiencing symptoms of the virus should also call their doctor, the governor said.
Maryland health officials tracked who may have had contact with the patients since they returned.
"There was some level of normal activity -- in one instance, there was a recognition that they were all not feeling well -- so activities were limited, in terms of not going to work and things like that," Gaynes said.
He said the patients are asymptomatic and doing better.
As of Friday, 41 people have been tested for coronavirus in the state. Of those, people 26 tested negative; 12 tests are pending.
Currently, there's a cruise ship quarantined off the coast of San Francisco, California, after a man died from the coronavirus on board. Other cruise lines, like Princess Cruises, have also been linked to the illness.
Royal Caribbean and several other cruise lines out of the Port of Baltimore have now implemented protocols to deny people boarding if they traveled to coronavirus infected parts of the world -- like China, Iran, South Korea and parts of Italy. Cruise officials are also denying boarding to people with a fever or those showing symptoms of flu or coronavirus.
Montgomery County officials said they don't have the capabilities to do coronavirus testing in the county, but that testing is done in Baltimore.
Officials also reiterated Hogan's comments that residents shouldn't panic but should still take the coronavirus seriously and be prepared.
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