Governor Larry Hogan has announced Phase One of re-opening Maryland. We are disappointed that Howard County Executive Calvin Ball responded by immediately declaring Howard County would not be following the Governor’s lead.
Dr. Ball’s stated reason for delaying the County’s recovery is that we fall short of the four targets the Governor has deemed that Maryland as a whole has already met:
1 – Adequate testing for Covid-19. The County’s plan looks to test 6,500 people per week, against 1300 being tested now. Ball warns us that the 500,000 test kits secured by the Governor “will likely go to larger jurisdictions first.” Howard County is one of the “big eight” counties who recently petitioned the Governor for more inclusion in the recovery planning. We are, then, a large jurisdiction. Further, when Dr. Ball was elected, he promised us he would be in Annapolis every day, getting the County what it needs. Why are we not getting test kits?
2 – “Robust” contact tracing. As protectors of individual rights, we’re already nervous about the practice of tracing patients’ every step and contact with other individuals. But if the County has already decided that it needs 45 contact tracers, why have we only hired 11? People are not working, can’t pay their bills, may lose their businesses, and we’re dragging our feet hiring 34 positions that are needed to get them back to work. That’s inexcusable. Contact tracing pays about $17 an hour. Specialized training is required, but not advanced degrees or a rare skill set. So why isn’t training being offered? Why aren’t these openings being posted on the County website, on Facebook, on Twitter?
3 – Confirmed cases and hospitalizations need to trend down for 14 days. It’s true that the numbers have bounced up and down in the last 14 days. We’re hovering around a one to two dozen new cases a day. This analysis of Health Department numbers by Clarksville resident Brendan Mahoney shows the curve is clearly trending down. Dr. Ball is on shaky ground saying the numbers aren’t decreasing.
4 – Adequate Personal Protective Equipment for those on the front line. Apparently, we don’t have enough masks, gloves and other gear. What steps has the administration taken to fix that? We’ve had several months now to deal with this situation. As our economic life’s blood ebbs away, Dr. Ball’s administration owes us demonstrated efforts to get what the County needs, not partisan rhetoric and excuses for failure.
Government’s primary task right now is to protect small businesses and restore normalcy to our lives. Our Governor knows this and has planned accordingly. Our President has been unrelenting in his message that we must protect our economy as we protect our health. Our Executive, frankly, is demonstrating a grave lack of leadership.