This Week in Coronavirus in Maryland

Surging unemployment claims to mandatory face masks: weekly synopsis of local news on pandemic.

The Council is expected to officially pass the new Board of Health regulation requiring employees and customers of essential businesses to wear face coverings when interacting with customers or coworkers on Tuesday, April 14, after the Almanac presstime.

“Workers at grocery stores, pharmacies, hardware stores and other essential businesses are putting their lives at risk to keep us all fed and cared for during this emergency,” said Councilmember Hans Riemer. “We must do everything we can to protect them.”

Monday, April 13

Potomac, 20854 COVID-19 Cases: 68

Maryland Cases: 8936

Montgomery County Cases: 1756

Montgomery County Deaths: 48

Sunday, April 12

Maryland Cases: 8,225

Montgomery Cases: 1,631

Montgomery County Deaths: 42

Covid cases will now be posted at www.coronavirus.maryland.gov by zip codes in Maryland as well as by counties, and by gender and race. “We are being as proactive as anyone in the country on this so that Marylanders can better understand the spread of this deadly virus,” said Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan.

According to statistics posted Monday, April 13:

Potomac had 68 positive cases. 3,202 people in Maryland who are African-American tested positive and 104 died;

2,305 who are white tested positive and 83 died;

190 people who are Asian tested positive and 8 died;

861 people who tested positive and 12 who died were listed as “other” and 1,667 positive cases did not yet have data available, which included 28 people who died.

African Americans are 31 percent of the population of Maryland.

Hogan and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo demanded $500 billion from the federal government for states to meet budgetary shortfalls from the pandemic. “Governors across the country are leading the on-the-ground response to the national COVID-19 pandemic… While these public health strategies are working to protect the American people, they result in catastrophic damage to state economies,” they said. “Despite this grave challenge, the recently passed federal CARES Act contained zero funding to offset these drastic state revenue shortfalls.”

Hogan, the chair of the National Governors Association, and Cuomo, the vice chair, said Congress must provide immediate financial relief to all states.

“In the absence of unrestricted fiscal support of at least $500 billion from the federal government, states will have to confront the prospect of significant reductions to critically important services all across this country, hampering public health, the economic recovery, and—in turn—our collective effort to get people back to work,” according to Hogan and Cuomo.

Saturday, April 11

Maryland Cases: 7,694

Montgomery County Cases: 1,537

Montgomery County Deaths: 36

Montgomery County Fire and Rescue will place additional EMS resources and decontamination capabilities into service next week, in response to anticipated COVID-19 activity surge in Montgomery County, tweeted chief spokesperson Pete Piringer.

Friday, April 10

Maryland Cases: 6,968

Montgomery County Cases: 1,388

Montgomery County Deaths: 34

The county and three unions – firefighters, police and food and commercial workers unions – reached an agreement on COVID-19 differential pay to recognize the unusual risks employees now face in leaving their homes and delivering vital services to the public. County Executive Marc Elrich said the unions could have insisted on “much larger benefits” under provisions of existing county bargaining agreements but “understood the importance of the ongoing fiscal health of the county.”

According to Elrich: “This agreement recognizes the increased risk of the work done by our first responders – firefighters and police officers during this pandemic. It also recognizes that other employees are doing work that requires public interaction – and therefore increased risk, including work by corrections officers, bus drivers, nurses, and social workers.”

Elrich said that the County has nonprofit partners serving on the front lines during the pandemic and will work with them to find possible ways to help them maintain necessary staffing.

Gov. Larry Hogan instituted a budget and hiring freeze for Maryland to help with a projected $2.8 billion shortfall due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Effective immediately, all agencies must stop discretionary purchases of items or services not related to addressing the COVID-19 pandemic or necessary to support core agency functions.

Effective Monday, April 13, all vacant positions in the executive branch of state government will be frozen with the exception of those currently subject to COVID-19 response pay. Hogan said it is unlikely any bills that require increased spending will be signed into law.

EXPANDED UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS: The Maryland Department of Labor will double staffing at claims centers and expand hours into Saturday to handle the unprecedented surge in unemployment claims.

Starting next Friday, everyone eligible for benefits ending the week of April 4 will begin receiving an additional $600 per week as part of the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program on top of current regular benefits.

Unemployment eligibility will expand to cover people who are self-employed, independent contractors, gig workers, have insufficient work history, and more. These individuals can visit mdunemployment.com and enter their email address to be notified directly as soon as this program is available.

Marylanders currently receiving benefits, as well as newly approved claimants, will receive an additional 13 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits.

FOR RECOVERED PATIENTS, COVIDConnect is a new registry for Marylanders who have recovered from COVID-19. This registry will serve as a community platform to share experiences and lend support to others who are coping with the recovery process. COVIDConnect will also provide opportunities for these recovered patients to learn about potential research or clinical studies. See health.maryland.gov/covidconnect.

STRIKE TEAMS are expanding for nursing home facilities to include assisted living facilities and group homes for medically fragile children.

LARGE-SCALE TESTING INITIATIVE. Governor Hogan announced that the state is investing $2.5 million in a joint partnership with the University of Maryland School of Medicine to provide the technology to launch a large-scale COVID-19 testing initiative.

NEW DECONTAMINATION SITE FOR PPE. The Maryland Department of Transportation, in coordination with FEMA, is setting up a new site at BWI Marshall Airport to decontaminate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The site will give Maryland the ability to clean and sterilize up to 80,000 N95 masks per day.

JUNE 2 PRIMARY. Hogan approved the State Board of Elections’ comprehensive plan to hold the June 2 primary by mail. All registered voters in Maryland should receive an absentee ballot in the mail, and everyone who can is encouraged to cast their ballot by mail. Be sure your voter registration information is current with your correct address and party affiliation. Text “CHECK” to 77788, or go to https://voterservices.elections.maryland.gov/VoterSearch

REMOTE WITNESSING. Governor Hogan enacted an emergency order to allow wills, powers of attorney, and advance directives to be witnessed remotely, i.e. by video conference. Currently, the law requires witnesses to be physically present when these documents are signed.

A fire rescue recruit tested positive for the coronavirus and two others recruits are experiencing possible symptoms. As a precaution, all 47 members of the current recruit class at the Montgomery County Public Training Academy in Gaithersburg and the seven instructors were sent home and put in self-quarantine. The training academy is a shared facility between the MCFRS and the Montgomery County Police Department. The current police recruit class was training off-site and was not impacted, according to a county press release.

In addition, the county reported that an inmate at the county correctional facility also tested positive for the virus. Other inmates with possible exposure are receiving daily temperature checks until the completion of the recommended 14-day exposure period.

Thursday, April 9

Maryland Cases: 6,185

Montgomery County Cases: 1,214

Montgomery County Deaths: 29

Shoppers in Montgomery County will be required to wear face coverings in grocery stores, pharmacies and large-chain retail establishments, according to a health order that went into effect on Monday, April 13. “We are working on many fronts to slow the spread of COVID-19. Protecting shoppers and store employees is critical,” said County Health Officer Travis Gayles, on April 9.

Retailers must limit the number of customers in stores at a single time and lines outside a store must promote physical distancing spaces for customers while waiting. The stores also must allow employees to wash their hands at least every 30 minutes.

Businesses who use shared equipment, such as baskets or hand carts, are encouraged to provide sanitation equipment such as disinfectant wipes or alcohol swabs, for individual use. Businesses are also encouraged to install clear physical barriers between cashiers and customers, where possible.

“And remember; my mask protects you, your mask protects me,” according to County Executive Marc Elrich.

Wednesday, April 8

Maryland Cases: 5,529

Montgomery County Cases: 1,088

Montgomery County Deaths: 21

Montgomery County launches its website for its $20 million Public Health Emergency Grant (PHEG) program designed to benefit for-profit and nonprofit businesses with 100 employees or fewer. The website provides information for businesses to prepare their grant applications for the program. In addition to for-profit and nonprofit businesses, the program is open to businesses with no employees including sole proprietors and independent contractors.

County Council and County Executive Marc Elrich intended their program to supplement Federal and State programs designed to help businesses survive the current COVID-19 health crisis. In advance of applying for a County grant, businesses are asked to review other assistance programs and apply to those for which they are eligible.

More information on the PHEG program is available at www.montgomerycountymd.gov/Biz-Resources/pheg/.

Tuesday, April 7

Maryland Cases: 4,371

Montgomery County Cases: 871

Montgomery County Deaths: 21

Gov. Larry Hogan directed the Maryland Department of Health to release additional information on the racial and ethic breakdown of COVID-19 cases.

“With more comprehensive Coronavirus data collection and reporting that includes data by race, ethnicity, and place, local governments such as ours will be better positioned to advance equity by supporting individuals and communities at highest risk for health inequities and disparate impacts,” according to the County Council. The Council asked for the following data:

Number of individuals tested for Covid-19 by place defined as election district and/or zip code of residency.

Number of individuals tested for Covid-19 by race and ethnicity across seven recommended classifications: White, Black, Latinx, Asian, Native American, Multi-racial, and Other.

Number of confirmed Covid-19 cases by race and ethnicity.

Number of confirmed Covid-19 related inpatient hospitalizations by race and ethnicity.

Number of Covid-19 recoveries by race and ethnicity.

Number of Covid-19 deaths by race and ethnicity

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