At a Monday press conference, Massachusetts state officials, led by Gov. Charlie Baker, said that though the risk of contracting the novel coronavirus is low, the situation remains fluid.
"We understand the concern this new virus is causing, and we want to reassure residents that at this time there is still a single confirmed case COVID-19 in the Commonwealth," said Marylou Sudders, the secretary of health and human services. "While the risk remains low in the Commonwealth, it is possible we will see more cases, and we are preparing for it."
"The biggest thing with all this is the facts are going to change," Baker said. "As they change, people need to change with them."
Joined by Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel, the trio made an effort to reassure Massachusetts residents that authorities have flexible and effective response capacities.
"We'll continue to monitor the coronavirus and prepare our state for all possible scenarios," Baker said.
During the conference, the governor said that in response to the threat, the state has created a website devoted to updating the public on the coronavirus outbreak, implemented voluntary quarantine procedures, and vowed to maintain communications with local authorities — such as hospitals, schools and boards of health. They have also created an "incident command structure" in order to respond when potential cases do crop up.
Bharel said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the Massachusetts State Public Health Laboratory to start performing coronavirus testing on Friday. That will allow for more efficient recordkeeping and ensure a 24-hour turn around on test results, depending on the number of cases.
A recent budget bill set aside $95,000 for state laboratory services related to the novel coronavirus. Sudders said that money was mostly to cover overtime work in the laboratory.
The conference came as a second case of COVID-19 was confirmed in nearby Rhode Island. That state now has two cases, both related to a trip to Italy.
According to DPH, there have been 608 potential cases in Massachusetts of COVID-19 who went into self-quarantine. Of those, 377 completed that 14-day period and did not present symptoms with the remainder not yet completing the quarantine.
Bharel emphasized points made by Baker and Sudders regarding the low-risk the virus currently poses to Massachusetts.
"Someone's risk for COVID-19 is closely linked to their recent travel," she said. "While the risk of contracting COVID-19 is low, the risk of getting the flu is high."
In light of recent incidents against Chinese populations due to the epidemic first appearing in China, Bharel emphasized that where a person is from does not play a role in their risk factor.
"Someone's nationality alone is not a risk factor," she said.
Otherwise, the officials reiterated basic public health tips: stay at home when sick, wipe down frequently touched surfaces, refrain from touching your face, cough or sneeze into a tissue or the crook of your elbow, and to wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water.
New data will be published on Wednesdays at www.mass.gov/2019coronavirus.