Coronavirus Maryland

Coronavirus in Maryland: Five takeaways from the week

While many states across the country have had to tighten coronavirus restrictions again due to outbreaks after early efforts to reopen, Maryland has continued to see its metrics stay flat or trend downward.

On Thursday, the state met a key threshold: two straight weeks of a seven-day average positivity rate below 5%, which the World Health Organization recommends reaching before loosening coronavirus-related restrictions.

The state’s peak seven-day average positivity rate, in mid-April, was 26.92%. On Thursday, the state reported a rate of 4.53%.

To keep Marylanders up to date with the week’s most pressing takeaways, here are five key points from The Baltimore Sun’s coronavirus coverage.

Maryland firms receive more than $10 billion in federal aid

Since the $521 billion paycheck protection program was launched to curtail job losses in the midst of the pandemic, nearly 5 million loans have been awarded, federal officials reported this week — 81,315 to Maryland businesses and nonprofit organizations.

Federal officials also released data tracking how many jobs have been bolstered by the program. In Maryland, about 900,000 have been supported by the loans, and about 75% of the state’s small business payroll, according to federal data.

In Maryland, 86 businesses and nonprofits received loans in the $5 million to $10 million range. Among those were numerous health care companies, as well as financial, legal and other professional firms. Some of the notable businesses receiving loans include McDonogh School in Owings Mills (between $5 million and $10 million); the Archdiocese of Baltimore (between $2 million and $5 million); and Hogan Companies, a real estate group founded by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan (between $150,000 and $350,000)

Many of Maryland’s elite private schools collected some of the biggest loans offered by the program. Nearly 200 schools in the state have received loans, about a third of which received $1 million or more. In central Maryland, nearly all of the schools with the largest endowments accepted Paycheck Protection Program funding.

Overall, full-service restaurants represented the industry that received the most most loans, both in number and amount received.

Hogan orders in-person election for November

Despite safety concerns from state and local election officials, Gov. Larry Hogan on Wednesday ordered them to run a regular, in-person election with each of the state’s roughly 2,000 precincts open on Election Day.

Hogan also ordered the State Board of Elections in a letter to mail each voter an application for an absentee ballot for anyone who feels unsafe voting in person because of the coronavirus.

Hogan, a Republican, said his decision would resolve problems seen in the June 2 primary, which was held mostly by mail.

“We’re very frustrated with the way the election was handled in the primary by the State Board of Elections and the [Baltimore] city board of elections,” Hogan said. “Mistakes were definitely made, and it was unacceptable and inexcusable that they screwed up so much with respect to getting the ballots out on time and getting them out to everybody.”

Amy Cruice of the ACLU of Maryland said despite the hiccups with some ballots arriving late or having errors, the primary was a success in terms of voter participation. Turnout was high, with 97% of those who voted doing so via the mailed ballots, she said.

“We will lose all of the gains we made in the June primary, in terms of being able to give people a safe and accessible way to vote,” said Cruice, who runs the ACLU’s election protection program in Maryland.

Hogan rejected the suggestions the state elections board, as well as local elections officials. While the board was divided along party lines as to whether the state should send absentee ballot applications (the option Republican appointees favored) or just mail out ballots without waiting for requests (which had the support of the board’s Democrats), members agreed it could not execute a “traditional” election with each of the state’s approximately 2,000 precincts open.

The appointed Maryland State Board of Elections issued a brief statement saying it will follow Hogan’s orders.

Local school districts propose reopening plans

Some public school districts in Central Maryland began to publicly discuss in earnest this week possible options for what school might look like in the fall.

The Baltimore City school district has proposed relaxing social distancing in schools to as little as 4 feet and requiring face masks for all staff and students when buildings reopen, according to a presentation to staff this week.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines call for schools to maintain 6 feet of distance between desks or chairs when feasible. District leaders said they were proposing “relaxing physical distancing to 4-6 feet to accommodate a greater number of students in-person in school buildings.”

Masks would be required, and desk shields and dividers — like the ones used at the check-out line in some grocery stores — would be used for students “who may have more difficulty wearing or keeping a mask on during the school day,” such as younger children and those in special education.

The proposals have raised concerns among school employees, including Baltimore Teachers Union President Diamonté Brown, who said they “should be way more heavily focused on protecting human life, not figuring out how we can get students in school buildings with relaxed social distancing.”

In Howard County, the board has voted to push back the start of the school year by two weeks. Officials are considering various reopening options, including starting the school year online and transitioning into a hybrid model, and offering a fully digital curriculum for students and staff who wish to opt in.

Harford County schools have laid out three possible scenarios: all distance learning, a mix of on-site and remote classes, and all in person. Officials said the decision will be dependent on the severity of the pandemic at the time.

New federal rule creates uncertainty for international students who won’t attend in-person classes

The Trump administration this week released new guidelines for international students in the U.S., requiring that students taking exclusively online courses at U.S. institutions this fall — a likely scenario for many, as schools develop their reopening plans — will have to return to their home countries.

The decision, which reversed the policies regarding online coursework that had been in place for the spring and summer semesters due to COVID-19, has left students and schools scrambling for solutions, and answers.

According to the new federal rule, international students must take “the minimum number of online classes,” but it remains unclear exactly how many classes must be in-person for a student to stay in the country. Many Maryland universities have insinuated they will offer special in-person coursework for international students to keep them in the country.

The policy has been challenged in federal court by Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Prince George’s County, a wealthy Black enclave, not immune to racial disparities of coronavirus

The coronavirus has run rampant in one of the wealthiest Black enclaves in the nation, Prince George’s County.

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The county has had a disproportionate amount of the state’s coronavirus deaths, too. More than 650 residents have died of COVID-19, a fifth of the state’s total deaths and second only to more populous Montgomery County.

Taken as a whole, experts say, the county’s experience reflects the persistence of racial inequities that have left African Americans and other minorities more vulnerable to the virus. Even in higher income and educational brackets, researchers are increasingly finding that racial disparities, such as doctors not taking a Black patient’s symptoms as seriously, take a toll on health.

“Look at all of the inequities that African Americans face in jobs, in housing, in education, in the criminal justice system, as well as in health care,” said Deneen Richmond, an administrator at Luminis Health, which operates Doctors Community Hospital in Lanham.

Baltimore Sun Media reporters Emily Opilo, Lorraine Mirabella, Pamela Wood, Alison Knezevich, Christine Condon, Daniel Oyefusi, Jean Marbella, Naomi Harris, Jacob Calvin Meyer and David Anderson contributed to this article.

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Maryland governor: probably time to change Redskins name

Maryland governor: likely time to change Redskins name

FILE – During this Aug. 28, 2009 file photo, the Washington Redskins logo is shown on the area before the start of a preseason NFL football game against the New England Patriots in Landover, Md.. The Washington Redskins are undergoing what the group calls a”comprehensive review” of this nickname. In a statement published Friday, July 3, 2020, the team says it has been speaking to the NFL for months regarding the subject. Owner Dan Snyder says the process will incorporate input from the league, sponsors, alumni, community and members of their organization\. FedEx on Thursday called for the group to change its title, and Nike seemed to eliminate all Redskins equipment.

Nick Wass

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said Wednesday he believes the title of Washington’s professional soccer team”probably ought to be changed” though he supported the group’s name when he ran for governor in 2014.

Hogan, a Republican, was asked on NBC’s”Today” show whether he thought the NFL team must change its title.

“I think that the time is probably correct,” Hogan said. “I’m glad that they’re having that conversation. I feel the title is going to be altered.”

The Washington Redskins play in Landover, Maryland. Hogan grew up as a fan of the Group in the area.

“It has got a lot of history associated with the name, but I understand it’s a hurtful title, and in today’s context it probably ought to be changed,” Hogan explained.

When Hogan ran for governor in 2014, he voiced support for the group’s name. That yearhe criticized a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s decision to cancel the Redskins’ trademark enrollment, saying that the the decision about what to call the group should be made to team owner Dan Snyder.

In 2014, Hogan told The Washington Times that he enjoys to”call them the Washington Redskins,” and he added that he didn’t think government should have a role in determining exactly what a business should call .

The team announced this month that it’s started a”through inspection” of the nickname, which specialists and advocates call a”dictionary-defined racial slur.”

Asked by”Today” host Craig Melvin on Wednesday if he acknowledged the title was a slur,” Hogan said”absolutely.”

Snyder has not shown a willingness to change the name since purchasing the team in 1999. The current dialog on race has revived opposition to the title, prompting the team to conduct the formal review.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material might not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without consent.

Current events around the U.S. and neighborhood opinions prompted the proper review. Title sponsor of the stadium of the team, fedEx asked a change. 

Quarterback becomes the first half billion-dollar player in sport history, easily surpassing Mike Trout’s $430 million MLB pact.

Politicians and actors have called for a title change in recent weeks amid a wave of social unrest in the country. 

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Dark national anthem was born more than a century before, but the popular hymn within the African American community called”Lift Every Voice and Sing” has resurrected a beacon of hope through nationwide protests.

Teams could play only two contests in the preseason under this plan.

BALTIMORE (AP) — Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson declared he will hold his annual”Funday with LJ” occasion in Florida amid the state’s spike in coronavirus instances.

There is lots of action outside ballparks on each side of the country, with people lining up from the countless nervous anticipation of what the upcoming few days might bring.

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Monday criticized a pair of pro sports teams that are thinking about name changes in the aftermath of a national reckoning over racial injustice and inequality.

“Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” will be performed live or played before”The Star-Spangled Banner” prior to every NFL game during Week 1 and the team is considering putting names of victims of police brutality on helmet decals or jersey patches, a individual familiar with the discussions told The Associated Press.

BALTIMORE (AP) — Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has canceled his annual”Funday with LJ” event in Florida due to surging coronavirus cases from the country and strict gathering limitations.


Maryland University

University of Maryland to hold ‘about 20%’ of undergraduate courses partially in-person, keep larger classes online

Within an email to students on Tuesday, the University of Maryland said it targets holding”about 20%” of undergraduate courses at least partially in-person for the fall semester as a result of continuing coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Mary Ann Rankin, senior vice president and provost, said courses of over 50 pupils would be delivered online due to social distancing limitations and priority for in-person classes would be given to a labs, performance courses, senior capstone projects, clinical instruction and internships.

An entirely updated class schedule for the autumn semester is anticipated to be available for pupils July 15.

The fall semester will begin Aug. 31 as scheduled, and the university hopes to complete courses on Dec. 14 without disturbance. Thanksgiving break is also expected to be held as scheduled by Nov. 25 into Nov. 29, but the university is directing faculty members teaching people to make arrangements to change their classes online in case of a potential resurgence of COVID-19 from the autumn.

In case that all courses are transferred online again, all session final exams would be run remotely. Pupils would not be expected to return to campus after Thanksgiving, if health conditions permit, though residence halls might stay open.

Many universities throughout the nation have corrected their session calendars into account for a suspected second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, permitting students to complete the semester prior to Thanksgiving and return home.

Pupils confirmed to live in the residence halls could cancel their housing arrangement without penalty through July 17.

Several health precautions are also executed, such as supplying sanitary wipes in all classrooms, necessitating social distancing and wearing of masks from campus buildings, and posting signs to direct one-way traffic in structures.

The state flagship university previously announced it would hold a hybrid of on site and online courses in the fall. The school also announced various security details to track and include the coronavirus on campus, like checking temperatures each day, requiring testing for anyone having a fever or signs, and tracking virus levels in campus wastewater.


Maryland orders

Maryland orders Prince George’s lab without proper certification to stop doing coronavirus tests

By Ian Duncan,

The Maryland Health Department has ordered a Prince George’s lab that had been processing coronavirus specimens collected at pop-up clinics to cease operations, saying the facility does not have the proper certification.

Maryland Health Secretary Robert R. Neall issued an order Saturday requiring Advanced Pain Medicine Institute, which has offices in Greenbelt, to immediately stop all collection and processing of coronavirus tests.

The order was issued after the department received a complaint about test sites operated in coordination with the lab, the state said in a news release. An investigation determined the lab did not have the proper certification to perform coronavirus tests. It also found some patients had problems obtaining their test results.

According to the state, the lab conducted coronavirus testing at several sites recently, including Church of Philippi, in Hanover, on June 6; Southern Baptist Church, in Baltimore, on June 13; and Bilingual Christian Church, in Baltimore, on June 16.

The state warned anyone who received tests at any of these events that the results may be erroneous and encouraged them to consider getting another test. Anyone with coronavirus symptoms should seek medical attention, the state said.

The state also suspended the Advanced Pain Medicine Institute’s license to operate a medical lab and perform any lab testing.

“The Maryland Department of Health’s primary concern is the health and safety of Marylanders,” Neall said in a statement. “Until Advanced Pain Medicine Institute demonstrates that it is in full compliance with the Code of Maryland Regulations, it must cease all COVID-19 specimen collection and processing.”

The state’s order requires the lab to inform everyone it tested about the possibility their test results might be wrong and to provide information about everyone it tested to the state.

Reza Ghorbani, president and medical director of Advanced Pain Medicine Institute, said he has tested some 1,000 people in a partnership with the state’s Korean community and churches serving immigrants and minorities in Baltimore City and Howard and Anne Arundel counties.

Ghorbani said in an interview Sunday that he was still trying to understand the basis for the order and was cooperating with the state.

“We’re trying to get to the bottom of it,” he said. “At this moment, I don’t know exactly what has happened.”

[Maryland expanded coronavirus testing for asymptomatic people in May]

The tests conducted as part of the project represent a small fraction of the more than 630,000 tests that Maryland officials say have been done in the state. The virus has sickened a confirmed 66,777 people in the state, by The Washington Post’s count, and killed 3,168. Minority communities like those targeted by Ghorbani’s testing program have been especially hard hit.

Ghorbani has been practicing in the Washington area since 2007, according to the clinic’s website. He graduated from Tufts University’s medical school and trained at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, according to state records. The only disciplinary action on his record is a $1,000 fine in 2016 for dispensing prescription medicine on an expired permit.

Even though Ghorbani’s background is in the treatment of pain, he said that when he saw how people were struggling to get access to tests as the coronavirus spread, he thought he could use his lab to help.

“I decided to give back to the community,” he said.

A Korean community group that was concerned that Asian Americans were not getting tested contacted Ghorbani, and they began working together to hold the pop-up clinics at churches earlier this month. The community group managed the logistics on the ground, while Ghorbani said he took responsibility for providing and processing the tests themselves.

The state’s order was issued as the group was about to start a testing clinic outside Bethel Korean Presbyterian Church in Ellicott City on Saturday.

The Howard County Health Department ultimately allowed the clinic to use 250 of its tests, which will be processed by LabCorp, a county spokeswoman said Sunday. But Julian Min, a spokesman for the Korean group, said that Ghorbani had provided a larger number of tests and that some people had to be turned away.

At the clinic at the Southern Baptist Church in East Baltimore, about 165 people were tested, according to church leader Donte Hickman. He said those tested included himself and his family.

“We were proud to have been asked to facilitate covid-19 tests in our community,” Hickman said. But on Sunday morning, he was in the process of getting word out to people who attended to let them know they might want to get retested.

[Maryland’s Gov. Hogan secured testing kits from South Korea but they weren’t used right away]

Hickman said that he and his family planned to get retested and that he hoped the state’s order would ultimately lead to more resources being put toward testing and contact tracing in underserved communities.

Angel Nunez, leader of the Bilingual Christian Church in Baltimore, said some people who attended the clinic there had trouble getting results, and about 50 had already been retested. But he was planning to do interviews with Spanish-language news media about the state’s order to ensure the word got out.

“We’re taken aback because everything was done in a professional manner,” Nunez said.

Representatives of Church of Philippi could not be reached Sunday.

Ghorbani and Min acknowledged that some people might have had trouble getting their results, as the state said in its order, but they attributed that to handwritten records that were hard to read or immigrant patients who were unwilling to share identifying information.

“Human error. It happens once in a while. Nothing’s 100 percent,” Ghorbani said.

Ghorbani also said he had been submitting his test results to the state and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“They have all that information,” he said.

Ghorbani said the lab is certified under the federal laboratory law, which a CDC database reflects. But in the Maryland order, Neall wrote that it was stopping the lab’s activities because of concerns about potentially unvalidated tests and “the lack of a laboratory medical director.”

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Maryland reopen

ReOpen Maryland co-founder tests positive for coronavirus

A co-founder of the ReOpen Maryland movement, who attended rallies and church services without a mask during the pandemic, has tested positive for COVID-19.

Republican Tim Walters said on Facebook that he’s one of the nearly 2.5 million Americans who have been afflicted by the out-of-control spread of coronavirus. He also said he will not cooperate with public health officials’ efforts to track the virus.

“I was diagnosed yesterday at the ER with COVID-19 and here I am months after not wearing a mask at rallies, churches and so on and so it’s funny how capricious this thing is,” Walters said Thursday.

What started as a dry cough in March has now turned into a fever and vision problems.

The 53-year-old conservative said he has diabetes and had not always been in the best of health prior to contracting COVID-19.

The Capital Gazette reports that Walters, a Navy veteran, organized ReOpen Maryland rallies in places including Annapolis, to protest efforts by the state’s governor to contain coronavirus.

Walters insisted in his video that he did not approve of sharing personal information with the government, though he recommended viewers take note of his symptoms and see a doctor if they’re concerned. Coughing at times, he said those symptoms include a sore throat and a headache, as well as trouble holding down food.

Upset the Capital Gazette didn’t ask him for clarity on his Thursday Facebook posting, the former explosive ordnance disposal technician admitted “they didn’t take out of context.” He has since recorded two more videos, one in which he said some of his family members would be tested for COVID-19.

In addition to offering updates on his health, Walters reads scripture during his online monologues. He said he’s been getting a lot of good advice from people on Facebook.

According to, Walters finished last among the six candidates who got votes to represent the 32nd district in Maryland House of Delegates in 2016. It was his second run for office.

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Maryland reopen

ReOpen Maryland coronavirus walters – The Washington Post

By ,

A Maryland man who organized rallies to pressure Gov. Larry Hogan (R) to lift the state’s stay-home order says he has tested positive for the novel coronavirus and does not plan to provide names of people with whom he had contact to public health officials for contact tracing.

Tim Walters, a co-founder of ReOpen Maryland, said on social media this week that he has had a dry cough for months but it recently worsened. He then began to experience an excruciating headache, a fever and the inability to focus with one of his eyes, which led to vertigo.

Walters, 53, a diabetic who has had mini-strokes, said he went to a hospital emergency room Monday and was diagnosed with the virus.

“Here I am months after not wearing a mask at rallies, churches and so on, and so it’s funny how capricious this thing is,” he said in a Facebook video.

He did not respond to an interview request.

[Va. universities want $200 million for coronavirus testing this fall]

A Republican and Navy veteran who twice lost races for the Maryland House of Delegates, Walters led rallies in Annapolis, on the Eastern Shore and across the state demanding that Hogan lift restrictions he imposed to slow the spread of the virus.

The demonstrations were part of a national movement to reopen states where shutdowns were in effect.

In his first bid for elected office in 2014, Walters focused on ending the Democratic monopoly in Annapolis, which he said created a “stagnant economy, 80 new taxes, poor job opportunity and unaccountable spending.”

Walters said he planned to post videos on Facebook during his quarantine to provide people with information about dealing with covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

His diagnosis was first reported in the Capital Gazette on Thursday night. By late Friday morning, Walters had deleted the first two of those videos.

In them, he had urged people who came in contact with him over the past two weeks to seek medical attention if they have symptoms. He said he expected to receive a call from county health officials for information about his contacts but added: “I will not share anybody’s information with the government. I will not do it.”

According to public health officials, contact tracing is a key part of fighting the spread of the virus.

[Until there’s a vaccine, experts say contact tracing is best tool against coronavirus]

In a Facebook Live video Friday, Walters said he was “on the mend” but having trouble eating.

“My throat is a little raw today because I couldn’t keep any food down yesterday,” he said in a video recorded in his kitchen. “My headache is still with me.”

Some commenters on Walters’s Facebook page Friday called him selfish for deciding that he would not assist contact tracers and said he could be putting other people at risk.

Walters, who said he thought providing the names would infringe upon people’s rights, removed the critical comments. He emphasized that he contacted the people that he interacted with over the past two weeks.

Walters said he had long suspected he might have the virus but was surprised by the toll it was taking on him this week. “It was nothing like what I thought,” he said. “The challenge with this is all the symptoms for everybody are completely different.”

He urged those who think they have already had the virus to not “make that assumption to the point where you’re being less prudent about how you’re behaving.”

Hogan posted the Gazette story to his Facebook page Friday afternoon and reiterated the importance of taking precautions to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

“Our health experts are strongly encouraging anyone who attended a demonstration or mass gathering to get tested for coronavirus, and they are also advised to avoid contact with vulnerable populations,” the governor said.

Read more:

Protest planned to reopen Maryland draws caravan of vehicles to downtown Annapolis

Before the state acted, this Maryland county launched a contact-tracing army

Teachers in Fairfax revolt against fall plans, refusing to teach in-person

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imposes Maryland

Maryland imposes $70,000 fine on nursing home where nearly all residents contracted covid-19

By Rachel Chason,

Katherine Frey

The Washington Post

The Pleasant View nursing home in Mount Airy, Md.

Maryland’s health department has fined the Carroll County nursing home that was the site of one of the state’s earliest nursing home covid-19 outbreaks $70,000 for failing in May to isolate new patients or separate residents who had tested positive from those who had tested negative.

There have been 87 coronavirus infections and 28 deaths among residents at Pleasant View, a 104-bed facility in Mount Airy, according to state data. The initial crisis there in late March, which began when 66 of its 95 residents tested positive for the coronavirus in one day, was an East Coast version of the tragedy at Life Care Center in Kirkland, Wash., where scores of elderly patients were sickened by the virus and 40 died.

Nurses at Pleasant View struggled to treat rapidly deteriorating patients while the facility’s medical director was nowhere to be found; local officials pleaded with the state for more resources; and a paramedic told The Washington Post that the halls were eerily quiet, except for ragged coughing audible from behind closed doors.

Dozens died in April and May, including nursing assistant Lawrence Nokes; family members say he passed the virus to his wife, who tested positive for the coronavirus after she also died.

“$70,000 seems very low to me,” said Carrie Kelley, Nokes’s stepdaughter. “It doesn’t even get close given the number of lives that were lost. . . . Frankly, I can’t even believe [the facility] is still in existence.”

The new inspection reports show that in mid-May, state inspectors found that conditions at the facility constituted “immediate jeopardy to the health and safety of residents.” Among the incidents cited by inspectors were a resident who had tested negative for the coronavirus being moved to the area of the building where positive residents lived; nursing assistants assigned to work in the rooms of positive and negative patients on the same day; and understaffing that allowed at least one newly admitted patient to wander throughout the building without a mask. That patient later tested positive.

The facility submitted a plan to correct the situation, and it was accepted by the state on May 29, according to the reports, which were first reported by the Baltimore Sun.

The Office of Health Care Quality levied a $5,000 daily fine against the facility from May 7 until May 20, according to state inspection reports, which Pleasant View can dispute.

Pleasant View administrator Rebecca Travels did not return requests for comment Friday.

[Inside the outbreak at Pleasant View]

Inspectors who observed the facility and interviewed staff, in addition to reviewing records, found that “it was evident that the facility failed to properly implement infection control practices to prevent COVID-19 and was not following infection control safety practices and guidance recommended by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

The inspections also offer insight into missteps surrounding the initial outbreak at Pleasant View. Inspectors found that the facility had identified “clusters of possible respiratory infections” by March 19 but did not contact the local health department until March 23. It was not until March 31 that nearly 70 percent of its residents tested positive for the coronavirus in a single day, according to the reports, with 55 of them sent to hospitals.

Inspectors found that the director of nursing called out sick March 30 and resigned in April, but the facility did not alert the state of the resignation, as required by regulations. Inspectors also found that the assistant director of nursing called out sick March 29 and that the position was listed as vacant in April.

Still, Travels, the administrator, told state regulators in late April, “I have no concerns regarding staffing at this time.”

Rebecca Tan contributed to this report.

Read more:

Dozens of cases, and 10 deaths. Inside Maryland’s worst coronavirus outbreak.

Md. nursing home with most deaths to be fined $10,000 a day since March 30

Too few masks, tests and workers: How covid-19 spread through Maryland nursing homes

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Maryland board set to take up state budget cuts next week

By Brian Witte | AP,

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — A Maryland board is considering more than $672 million in state budget cuts in response to the impact of the coronavirus on the state budget as part of a budget-balancing plan unveiled Friday by Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration that totals about $1.45 billion.

An addition to the Board of Public Works agenda outlined the proposed budget actions for the new fiscal year, which begins Wednesday when the board is scheduled to meet.

The board, composed of Gov. Larry Hogan, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Nancy Kopp, is weighing cuts spread out throughout state agencies and offices, including health, education and corrections. The plan also includes proposed withholding of cost-of-living adjustments for state employees as well as eliminating vacant positions.

Nick Pepersack, a spokesman for the governor’s budget office, said the unprecedented magnitude of the state revenue losses that Maryland will be facing, combined with the uncertainty of any future aid from the federal government, has forced reductions to practically all areas of the state budget.

“Out of consideration for those impacted most by the COVID-19 pandemic, we put a priority on maintaining funding for public health programs, economic and workforce development initiatives, and social safety net benefits for vulnerable Marylanders,” Pepersack said.

Del. Maggie McIntosh, a Baltimore Democrat who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, was briefed on the plan by the governor’s budget office Friday afternoon. She described the cuts going to the board Wednesday as “not draconian,” without layoffs or furloughs.

“I think it was, in the face of what we have going on right now, about almost as fair as you could get,” McIntosh said.

However, she described the rest of the list leading to the $1.45 billion in budget savings as something she hoped could be avoided with help from the federal government “because nobody wants to do the rest of that list.”

Michael Ricci, a spokesman for Hogan, said the governor is leading a bipartisan effort nationally to secure federal aid to prevent deeper cuts and protect state workers.

“To solve our budget shortfall in Maryland could require reducing up to 25% of our state workforce,” Ricci wrote in an email. “We hope (the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) will work with us to avoid this and be part of this undertaking. We are all in this together.”

Patrick Moran, president of AFSCME Council 3, decried the proposed cuts.

“At a time when Marylanders are facing challenges that haven’t been seen in decades, the Hogan Administration is choosing to actually reduce resources that help Marylanders meet those challenges,” Moran said. “Services and supports in health care, education and human services are being cut just when the need has become greatest.”

Jerry Smith, president of the Maryland Professional Employees Council representing about 5,000 state employees, said it was premature to propose such cuts when the state could still receive a large amount of additional assistance from the federal government. He also said it’s unclear what the state’s revenues will end up being.

“So this proposal they tell us is based on a 10% to 13% revenue shortfall for fiscal year 2021, and not knowing what the end of the fiscal year receipts will be, we feel that making these drastic cuts at this time is premature,” Smith said. “And we’re asking: Why do this if we don’t have to?”

Ben Orr, executive director of the Maryland Center on Economic Policy, also said the budget cuts were premature. He cited a report released recently by the center that found state budget cuts during the Great Recession slowed economic recovery.

“Massive budget cuts that have lasting harmful impacts should not be the first option,” Orr said.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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Hogan Maryland

Maryland Gov. Hogan proposes $1.45B in state budget cuts, cites economic downturn from coronavirus pandemic

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan proposed $1.45 billion in budget cuts across state government Friday by eliminating employee raises, cutting vacant positions and slashing funding for programs ranging from school security to prosecuting violent crime in Baltimore.

Hogan proposed the changes in advance of a meeting Wednesday of the state Board of Public Works, which has the authority to cut the budget. A total of $672 million worth of cuts are scheduled for a vote at the meeting, with action on the remaining proposals possible in the future.

The need to reduce spending by $1.45 billion was based on “a conservative estimate of our expected revenue losses,” said Nick Pepersack, deputy chief of staff and spokesman for the Department of Budget and Management. State officials didn’t offer details of how the target was reached.

Hogan’s chief spokesman noted that state governments across the nation face dire financial situations. Stay-at-home orders and other restrictions to control the spread of the coronavirus led to lower-than-expected collections of income taxes and sales taxes, forcing governments to rework their budgets.

Hogan, the chair of the National Governors Association, and other governors are lobbying Congress to pass a bill that would send billions of financial aid to help states plug their budget holes.

“Sadly, more than 1.5 million government jobs have been lost across the country since March,” Hogan chief spokesman Mike Ricci said Friday in a statement. “To solve our budget shortfall in Maryland could require reducing up to 25% of our state workforce.”

Layoffs were not part of the spending reductions proposed Friday, however, and Ricci said he hoped unions will work with the state to avoid them.

But the proposals included several actions that would impact state workers, according to the Department of Budget and Management.

Officers at state law enforcement agencies, such as the Maryland State Police, would not get a 5% raise that they previously negotiated. It was supposed to start Wednesday, the first day of the state’s new fiscal year.

Also, Hogan wants to abolish 92 state jobs that aren’t filled, require employees to pay more for health care, and make it more difficult to qualify for overtime pay.

The Board of Public Works is comprised of the governor, comptroller and treasurer. For the last few months, Republican Lt. Gov Boyd Rutherford has sat in for Hogan while the governor focuses on the coronavirus pandemic.

Treasurer Nancy Kopp and Comptroller Peter Franchot, both Democrats, said Friday they were reviewing the proposals.

Franchot’s spokeswoman, Susan O’Brien, said the comptroller “will act to ensure that any efforts to reconcile Maryland’s budget challenges do not come at the expense of Maryland’s economy.”

State budget Secretary David Brinkley briefed state lawmakers for two hours Friday afternoon on the proposals.

Del. Maggie McIntosh, a Baltimore Democrat who chairs the House of Delegates Appropriations Committee, came away relieved the proposed reductions weren’t worse. Considering the state’s financial situation, she felt that state employees got “a fairly good treatment.”

“The sky did not fall,” she said. “There were not furloughs, layoffs, massive cuts in salary.”

McIntosh said she’s hopeful the state won’t have to make more cuts. More will be known after a July 15 deadline for filing state income taxes and after the next round of financial forecasts are made in September. The next Board of Public Works meeting after Wednesday is scheduled for July 22.

The union that represent the largest number of state workers, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Maryland Council 3, called on the board to postpone voting on the proposal at least until the late July meeting.

While state budget officials met with some employee unions before the cuts were proposed, there was no meeting with AFSCME, according to union President Patrick Moran.

Moran said the state could dip into its Rainy Day Fund and make other maneuvers to avoid such a hit to state workers and state services.

“The reality is they did not act, in our opinion, in good faith,” Moran said. “They didn’t take every step they needed in order to make sure that this was the best step forward.”

Moran said the Hogan administration is using a “sledgehammer instead of a scalpel” to cut spending.

The state’s teachers union is not on board, either. The Maryland State Education Association’s staff tallied up what it said were $110.8 million of immediate cuts to education programs.

That list includes state grants that go to poorer counties that are often used to help fund schools, smaller contributions toward teacher retirements, and cuts to the Healthy School Facilities Fund, which pays for projects like air conditioning and mold remediation in public schools.

“Educators have stepped up throughout this crisis to do all we can for our students, and the governor’s cuts are a slap in the face,” association President Cheryl Bost said in a statement.

Bost said teachers oppose the cuts “in the strongest possible terms” and urged the board to vote against them.

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Hogan later held a news conference in downtown Baltimore to announce money in his budget for 25 lawyers and other staff for the attorney general’s office. Hogan proposed eliminating those positions Friday; his office declined to explain why.

Hogan also wants to sell two Maryland State Police aircraft — one of the agency’s medical evacuation helicopters and an airplane that isn’t being used.

State Sen. Guy Guzzone, a Howard County Democrat who chairs the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, said in a statement after he was briefed by the budget secretary that the state faces tough choices.

“What is clear today is that we are facing very difficult fiscal times ahead, and we need the federal government to pass legislation to help the states,” Guzzone said. “As they go through these recommendations, we hope that the Board of Public Works approaches these cuts with a scalpel, while protecting the most vulnerable among us.”

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Maryland reports 350 new coronavirus cases as hospitalizations continue to decline

Baltimore Sun

Jun 21, 2020 10:18 AM

Maryland health officials reported 350 new coronavirus cases in the state on Sunday, as hospitalizations from the virus continue to decline.

A total of 2,937 Marylanders have died from the virus since March, including 14 new deaths reported on Sunday. Another 129 people in Maryland who have died likely perished due to the virus, but it hasn’t been confirmed through lab tests.

A total of 608 Marylanders are being treated in the hospital for coronavirus, down from 644 the day before. Of those patients, 230 are in intensive care, eight fewer than the day before.

Maryland reported that the seven-day average of positive tests is 5.03%, with the one-day positivity rate at 5.23%.

Public health officials have offered conflicting guidelines on what a sufficient positivity rate is for governments to relax restrictions that were put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Gov. Larry Hogan has cited a guideline from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends reopenings after two weeks of a positivity rate of less than 15%.

Johns Hopkins University, meanwhile, compares states to a World Health Organization standard of 5% positivity rate for two weeks. By the Hopkins calculation, Maryland is at 4.95%, moving into the group of 30 states that meet the WHO guidelines.

Health experts caution that Americans need to remain vigilant about the coronvirus, even as states continue to relax restrictions.

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Dr. Tom Inglesby, director of the Center for Health Security at Johns Hopkins University, countered recent remarks from President Donald Trump, who claimed the virus is “fading away.”

“It’s not fading away,” Inglesby told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace. “The U.S. has more cases than it’s had in many, many weeks. If you compare us to other parts of the world, our numbers are on the rise.”

Inglesby, who also advises Hogan, said the coronavirus remains a “serious, serious pandemic.” He urged governors to “double down” in emphasizing prevention measures, such as wearing face coverings, avoiding gatherings, staying at a distance from others and frequently washing hands or using hand sanitizer.

Coronavirus cases and deaths at the state’s nursing homes remain a concern, though Hogan announced Friday that homes could resume outdoor visits between residents and family members. Nursing home employees now must be tested for the virus every week, and residents will be tested weekly at homes that have active cases.

A Baltimore Sun analysis found flaws in the state’s reporting of cases and deaths at nursing homes. The state had dropped confirmed cases and deaths from homes that no longer had “active” outbreaks from the statewide totals, leading to an underreporting of the scope of the virus.

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