By Brain Whitte
Associated Press

Maryland will keep its public schools closed for another four weeks through April 24 in response to the new coronavirus, the state’s superintendent of schools announced March 25.

Karen Salmon said she made the decision with the state board of education after lengthy discussions with health experts. Salmon said she is working with all local school superintendents to provide continuity of learning throughout Maryland.

“More information will be available in the coming days as we work collaboratively on a statewide plan that maintains equitable standards and expectations for students,” Salmon said at a news conference with Gov. Larry Hogan.

The updated announcement on school closings comes after the state announced a two-week closing period on March 12 that ran through this week.

Salmon said while it’s too early to say definitely when schools will reopen, officials will continue to reassess the situation as they move forward.

Hogan said he has formally submitted a request for a presidential disaster declaration for the state to help provide funding for state and local governments as well as nonprofits for initiatives like disaster unemployment insurance, hazard mitigation and emergency protective measures.

Salmon also said child care and day care facilities may remain open. She said the state is focusing on ensuring child care options for the children of essential personnel.

The state health department said there have been at least 423 cases in Maryland. That’s an increase of 74 cases overnight, the largest increase in a single day yet in the state. Four deaths from coronavirus have been reported in the state.

Hogan said the state testing has broadened from beyond the state lab to multiple hospitals and private labs.

“And so the higher numbers do not necessarily mean that things are getting worse. It just means we’re testing more people,” Hogan said, adding: “it’s not as alarming as it sounds, because it’s just a lot more people getting tested. It doesn’t mean the percentages are going up.”

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.