State Marks 10K Virus Milestone, Cecil County Has 102; Hogan Orders Facemasks–but Claims Re-opening Business is Near

April 15, 2020


Maryland marked a milestone in the spread of the COVID-19 virus on Wednesday (4/15/2020) with 10,032 confirmed cases in the state, and Cecil County’s count reached 102 cases. But Gov. Larry Hogan, while ordering all shoppers and store workers to wear facemasks and predicting that the state is still weeks away from a “peak” of infections, said he was working on plans to re-open businesses in the state.

It was a remarkable mixed-message performance by Hogan, speaking at an afternoon press conference in Annapolis, and highlighted his dual roles as Maryland’s governor, presiding over a still escalating local health crisis, and his position as chairman of the National Governors Association. In the latter capacity, Hogan said he and other governors would speak with President Trump in a teleconference call on Thursday, at which the topic would be re-opening the states’ businesses.

President Trump declared this week that he alone had the authority to order re-opening of businesses across the nation and to over-ride governors’ shut down orders. But after widespread criticism from health officials, governors and Constitutional authorities, Trump partially backed down to say he would consult with governors on their local situations, although he wanted at least some states to re-open by May 1.

In Maryland, state Health Department statistics issued Wednesday morning listed 10,032 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus in the state (up by 560 cases in just 24 hours) and 349 fatalities (up 47 in 24 hours.). In addition, the report included for the first time 165 additional fatalities that were considered “probable” deaths caused by the virus but not fully confirmed by tests. In addition, the report listed 2,231 hospitalizations due to the virus, an increase of 109 in 24 hours.)

And Cecil County crossed its own milestone, with 102 confirmed cases of the virus reported on Wednesday, along with two previous fatalities.

Despite the state’s new infection milestone, Hogan declared that the state was “now in a position to move from containment and mitigation to plan the gradual rollout of our recovery phase.” He offered no specifics but did say he would offer details next week.

But at the same time, Hogan issued an executive order, effective Saturday morning, to require all shoppers and retail store employees to wear face masks. Riders on public transportation, which has been cut back extensively throughout the state and primarily limited to “essential” industry workers and healthcare employees, would also be required to wear facemasks.

Despite the state’s statistics, and his own escalation of mandates to include facemask directives, Hogan declared there was reason for “optimism right now” in Maryland, without offering specific data to support that observation.

Hogan was a leader in the nation for recognizing the threat posed by the virus, aided by the health experts at Johns Hopkins University and hospital in Baltimore, and he was one of the first governors to issue emergency declarations and orders to close bars, restaurants and “non-essential” businesses. He has also been a leader in expanding medical response capabilities, including creating additional hospital beds in the state and emergency “field hospitals” such as a 250-bed federally-aided facility at the Baltimore Convention Center.

But testing of potential victims has been Hogan’s Achilles heel. He was slow to roll out mass testing sites, and when he finally moved ahead on testing, all of his initiatives were located on the Western Shore of Maryland. And even as he was saying on Wednesday that he was seeing “light at the end of the tunnel” on the virus spread, he also announced a slew of new virus testing sites: again, all located on the Western Shore of the state.

Cecil County has the highest number of confirmed cases of the virus on the Eastern Shore, and the county also has the largest population on the Shore: 101,000 in the last census and an estimated 103,000 people now calculated by state planning agencies. There were 102 cases of the virus in Cecil County as of Wednesday morning, according to the local health department—up from 92 cases on Tuesday morning—and two fatalities, including one elderly resident of the Calvert Manor nursing home in Rising Sun. There have also been other positive tests among patients and staff at the facility, and sources said several patients were hospitalized due to the virus in the past few days.

Hogan devoted much of his press conference to describing a shopping list of new emergency supplies, including rapid result tests and “personal protection equipment” for medical personnel, that the state has received in recent days or has on order from around the globe. Most important for infected patients is Hogan’s declaration that the state expects to receive 252 ventilators for use in hospital intensive care units.

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