Updated: 8:20 p.m.
Pennsylvania and New Jersey officials disclosed additional presumed positive cases of coronavirus Sunday, bringing each state’s totals to six.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health announced Sunday evening that two new adult patients tested positive for COVID-19 in Montgomery County. The patients are a male and female who live in the same Lower Marion Township household. They were exposed through international travel where coronavirus was present.
Two other Montco residents, a Worcester man and a Lower Gwynedd woman, were also infected after traveling to another part of the U.S. where COVID-19 has been active, county officials said Sunday morning.
“Coronavirus is very contagious and we fully expect that we will see additional cases here in Montgomery County,” said Valerie Arkoosh, Chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners during a press conference Sunday morning at the county’s Operations Center in Eagleville — just hours before the state announced the two new cases.
All four Montco patients have mild symptoms and are isolated at home. Anyone they may have come into contact with is being traced for symptoms, Arkoosh said.
The two other Pennsylvania cases are in Delaware and Wayne counties.
New Jersey officials also announced two more patients had tested positive for coronavirus in that state for a total of six, mostly in North Jersey. One patient in Camden County is a 61-year-old man from Cherry Hill.
Officials said Sunday that one male 70-year-old health care worker from Teaneck is in stable condition in a hospital intensive care unit. A 32-year-old man from West New York was hospitalized, but a condition report wasn’t available. Officials haven’t been able to talk to either to find out their contacts and exposure. Health authorities said they are tracking 27 people.
Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver stressed that the overall risk to the average New Jersey resident remains low.
No confirmed cases from the state of Delaware have been reported.
Local and state public health officials in Montgomery and Delaware Counties, as well as in New Jersey, have faced pressure from some residents and lawmakers to release more information about the locations of the cases.
Montgomery County officials waited to disclose the townships where the first two patients lived so they could brief Worcester and Lower Gwynedd leaders first, Arkoosh said Sunday.
“It is a very important balance that we protect the confidentiality and the anonymity of the individuals, who I want to stress have been completely cooperative and are following all of our guidelines in terms of self-isolation,” she said.
Delaware County still has not released information about where the woman diagnosed with COVID-19 lives, but Arkoosh said Montgomery County plans to release the townships where cases crop up as soon as they are able to confirm the details.
Germantown Academy closes
Arkoosh said while additional cases in Montgomery County are “inevitable,” she insisted that the risk of contracting the virus remains low because there have been no cases of community transmission.
Arkoosh reached out to employers in the county to consider offering some paid sick days to those without them to avoid a situation where employees are showing up to work ill.
“Obviously anyone who needs that paycheck to take care of their family is going to come to work because their family is going to be more important to them,” she said.
The county’s office of public health has been in touch with school superintendents across the county.
“At this point, it is a local decision to keep open or closed for different schools,” she said.
Germantown Academy in Fort Washington announced Sunday it will close Monday through March 17 because a student’s family member is one of the patients who tested positive for COVID-19 in Montgomery County.
In a statement, the school said it was closing “out of an abundance of caution.” The family member has mild “cold-like” symptoms and has not been on the school’s campus since his exposure.
The student in question, however, was in school on Friday but has no symptoms.
Germantown Academy students will continue classes through an online platform for the bulk of the time they’re at home.
Montco declares disaster emergency
Arkoosh said Montgomery County had declared a disaster emergency, which she said would help the county bypass red tape, making it easier to buy medical supplies and easier to activate medical responders.
New Jersey has not declared an emergency, citing the governor’s existing powers are flexible enough to provide the necessary resources. But health officials continue to discourage vulnerable populations, such as older residents or people with underlying medical conditions, to reduce their risk by avoiding cruises and countries where there have been ongoing transmissions of the coronavirus.
New Jersey isn’t seeing the type of clusters or outbreaks places like West Chester, New York have, but state epidemiologist Christina Tan said school dismissals and avoiding large crowds will become a more important mitigation strategy as the virus spreads.
“There’s a point where our routine containment strategy, such as the very rigorous contact, the close contact tracing isn’t going to be the best strategy to use,” Tan said. “That’s why we have all these other strategies that assume there’s already going to be spread in the community.”
The Associated Press contributed reporting.