Cecil County Has Second COVID-19 Death: Nursing Home Patient Dies; County Exec Freezes Budget

April 13, 2020

A second Cecil County resident has died of the COVID-19 virus, the Cecil County Health Department reported Monday afternoon, after a man in his 80’s — who was a patient at the Calvert Manor nursing home in Rising Sun—died of the virus after an outbreak among patients and staff emerged in the past few days..

“Our condolences go out to the family and friends of the patient,” said County Executive Alan McCarthy. “Now more than ever, we must come together as a community to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect our county’s most vulnerable residents.”

Lauren Levy, the county’s Health Officer, also said that a special state Health Department and National Guard “strike team” that the county had asked to be deployed to Calvert Manor visited the facility Saturday afternoon and determined that the facility was “taking appropriate steps to contain the outbreak.” She also said that the county health agency had obtained “additional testing supplies” from ChristianaCare/Union Hospital in Elkton “to identify any new cases” at the nursing home.

The county previously recorded one other fatality from the virus, a man in his 80s with underlying medical conditions, who died at Union Hospital. As of mid-day Monday (4/13/2020), Cecil County health officials reported a total of 83 confirmed cases of the virus in the county.

The state Health Department’s daily update on the virus reported on Monday morning did not include the latest Cecil County fatality. Statewide, the Monday update reported a total of 8,936 confirmed cases of the virus (an increase of 711 cases within 24 hours) and 262 deaths from the virus (an increase of 27 fatalities within 24 hours.)

Meanwhile, McCarthy announced Monday afternoon that he was freezing all hiring to fill employee vacancies in county government and instituting an overall budget freeze for the remainder of the current Fiscal 2020 budget year, which ends on 6/30/21020, due to the anticipated economic impacts of the virus. Only “essential personnel who are on the front lines in the fight against COVID-19” would not be included in the spending freeze, the county executive said.

In addition, funds approved in the FY2020 operating budget that have not been spent yet “will be monitored and will only be allocated on expenditures deemed absolutely necessary, “McCarthy said. But current payroll, contracts and utilities expenses will be paid, he added, and there may be reductions in projections of revenues in the existing budget.

Last week, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot predicted a “worst case scenario” of reduced state revenues for the rest of the current fiscal year that could reach over $2 billion, and as a result Gov. Larry Hogan issued a budget “freeze” and told the General Assembly he would not sign pending legislation for increased spending. But that decision also fitted into Hogan’s year-long fight with state legislators over how to pay for the proposed “Kirwan Commission” proposals for expanded state spending on education, which Hogan opposes and a majority of legislators’ support.

Franchot’s dire warnings were based on a far different revenue climate from what local counties experience. The state budget is heavily reliant on sales taxes and gasoline taxes—which are not collected by local counties—as well as substantial state income taxes that are more than double most counties’ local income tax rates. The current “stay home” order issued by Hogan, and the closing of businesses, restaurants and most stores, have serious impacts on sales, gasoline and income tax revenues.

Hogan also recently received General Assembly authority to drain $50 million in state emergency “rainy day” funds to cope with the virus crisis.

In Cecil County, McCarthy has pursued a policy of building up emergency reserve accounts over the past three years, to reverse decades of deficit spending by past leaders that relied on draining local emergency reserve funds to pay for annual spending.

“Fiscal responsibility continues to be my top priority,” McCarthy said on Monday The current virus emergency shows how important building up those reserves were to protect the county in times of crisis, he said, and those reserves “have the necessary capacity for us to address any fiscal challenges that arise” from the virus crisis.

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