Friends and Neighbors,
As you may have heard, the Legislative Session will be ending early tomorrow, Wednesday, March 18, due to the emergency public health protocol in place to address the Coronavirus. The World Health Organization has declared the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak a global pandemic that has infected nearly 200,000 people worldwide, and a national emergency has been declared.
As of today, March 17 2020, Maryland has reported 57 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus.
Updates from the Governor and our State Government
Maryland will operate under a state of emergency and will take additional precautionary measures to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. For a complete list of actions the state is taking in response to the coronavirus outbreak, visit: https://governor.maryland.gov/2020/03/12/governor-hogan-announces-major-actions-to-protect-public-health-limit-spread-of-covid-19-pandemic/
The Governor has postponed the state’s April 28 primary until June 2, 2020 (except for the 7th Congressional District race, which will be held by mail).The State Board of Elections will develop a plan to conduct the primary in a safe way. More information will be forthcoming at the State Board of Elections website in the next few days:
Small Business Support: Visit the Maryland Dept of Commerce website – https://businessexpress.maryland.gov/coronavirus
The Governor has also announced the following Executive Orders regarding COVID-19:
All restaurants, bars, movie theaters and gyms are closed, except for drive-thru, carryout, and food delivery services. (Support our small businesses by doing carrying or delivery and buying gift cards to use later!)
Grocery stores, banks, pharmacies, gas stations and other essential services will remain open. Drive-thru, carryout and food delivery service will be allowed to continue.
Any social, community, religious, recreational sports, gatherings or events of more than 50 people in close proximity are PROHIBITED in all locations, establishments and venues all across Maryland.
250 Maryland state troopers have been activated and are ready for deployment.
5,000 medically trained volunteers in the Maryland Medical Reserve Corp have been activated to assist with public health emergencies.
Medical professionals with out of state or expired Maryland licenses will be permitted to practice during the state of emergency.
Hospital facilities across the state that had been previously closed may be reopened by the Maryland Department of Health. Other actions may be necessary to increase the state’s capacity to care for patients and increase hospital beds by 6,000.
Residential customers are protected from gas, water, electric, sewer, phone, cable, and internet services being shut off during state of emergency. Providers will not charge late fees.
For the duration of the state of emergency, residents will not be evicted
The legislature, the Governor and all state agencies are unified in the effort to keep residents safe in the wake of this rapidly evolving public health threat. At the behest of Governor Hogan, the General Assembly took immediate legislative action and introduced two COVID-19 bills to provide the Governor with the necessary tools to respond to this public health emergency:
HB 1661: State Budget Today the House approved the FY21 budget. This year’s budget bill provides the Governor with up to $50 million from the State’s Rainy Day Fund to help respond to the public health threat and ensures all state agencies will continue functioning throughout this crisis and grant funding continues to be available for our non-profits and small businesses.
HB 1663: State Government – State of Emergency and Catastrophic Health Emergency – Authority of Governor and Unemployment Insurance Benefits: This bill allows the Governor to take specific actions to expand healthcare benefits and protect workers in response to the public health threat:
Changes the definition of a work week to allow state hospital nurses to care for COVID identified patients and still be eligible for full-time benefits;
Eliminates co-pays and other out-of-pocket costs for COVID–19 testing;
Requires the Maryland Department of Health to cover the cost of COVID–19 testing and any associated costs not paid for by insurance or another third party;
Covers the cost of COVID–19 immunization should it become available;
Waives certain telehealth protocols for COVID–19 to allow more patients to be diagnosed and treated over the phone and online;Requires the Maryland Department of Health to reimburse patients for telehealth services related to COVID–19;
Allows the state, in partnership with federal government, to provide unemployment insurance benefits to workers who are temporarily out of work or quarantined due to COVID–19;
Prevents retailers from price gouging necessary goods and services such as food, water, fuel and medicine; Prohibits employers from firing employees who are isolated or quarantined for COVID-19.
The General Assembly may reconvene in May for a special session to finalize any outstanding legislative work. By adjourning the legislative session early, we hope to serve as a model for our local governments and neighboring states. Practicing social distancing now can save lives later.
The Speaker and Senate President have established a special workgroup – the Joint Committee on the COVID-19 Response – to monitor the effects of the virus and advise the General Assembly on the steps to take to prevent the further spread of the virus.
I urge you to follow the Maryland Health Department’s COVID-19 website as the best resource to track the virus in Maryland: https://coronavirus.maryland.gov/.
Food sites for students and seniors are being updated daily. The list can be found at this map, and more information for Baltimore City School students can be found here.
Please also visit the Baltimore City COVID-19 website for up-to-date information on the response to the virus and emergency resources https://health.baltimorecity.gov/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov.
DPW and BGE are suspending all service disconnections.
AARP is conducting tele-town halls to discuss the coronavirus as well – click here.
Many neighborhoods are organizing volunteer opportunities. Click here for more information.
We are just beginning what will be a very difficult time period in our communities and state. It is my great hope that we will all rise to the circumstances, look out for our neighbors, and take care of one another. Stay safe, be kind, and take care.
Websites to bookmark
Maryland Department of Health
Baltimore City Department of Health
Baltimore City Public Schools
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