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OAKLAND — Garrett County has confirmed its first two cases of COVID-19, health officials said Sunday afternoon.

The patients who tested positive are both women over 60 who traveled within the United States to areas known to have COVID-19 cases, according to a news release issued Sunday by the Garrett County Health Department.

The women, who were tested for the virus at Garrett Regional Medical Center, had contact with each other.

“Garrett County has been preparing for the possibility of a case of COVID-19 since it was first reported in the United States,” said Bob Stephens, Garrett County health officer. “The health department is coordinating our response efforts and will continue to work to reduce the spread of infection and protect the health of all people in Garrett County.”

Both women began self-isolating at home as soon as they were tested at the medical center and have not needed hospitalization, according to the release.

Health officials said they were gathering information about the women's contacts in order to encourage home quarantine/isolation for those who may have been exposed.

“This news confirms that rural Garrett County is indeed part of the wider world, and COVID-19 will impact us to some degree," said Dr. Jennifer Corder, Garrett County’s deputy health officer. "The most important thing the public can do is to follow the CDC guidance, which includes the standard hygiene practices we recommend to prevent the spread of flu and other viruses.

"In addition, it is critical to minimize potential spread by maintaining social distance between people. Most importantly, we must protect our precious health care providers, including hospital-based workers from unnecessary potential exposure," she said. "Stay at home, especially if you are mildly ill and speak to your provider by telephone.”

For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever, cough and shortness of breath. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness.

"We want the public to remember that most COVID-19 patients can self-quarantine and recover at home with the help of their physician," said Mark Boucot, GRMC’s president and CEO. "If you are exhibiting symptoms or have been exposed to someone diagnosed with the virus, contact your doctor. Your physician will know what steps to take and will advise accordingly.”

Health leaders are asking people to take the illness seriously and to limit unnecessary social exposure by staying home, practice good hand-washing habits and remaining home if sick.

CUMBERLAND TIMES-NEWS, ctn@times-news.com

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