As more coronavirus cases spread throughout Maryland, the head of Baltimore’s emergency management office responsible for developing a citywide plan to respond to the virus has been placed on leave.
Lester Davis, Mayor Jack Young's spokesperson, told WYPR on Thursday morning that the director of the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management David McMillan had been placed on leave. He declined to provide specific details. The MOEM did not immediately return a request for comment from WYPR.
During a Thursday afternoon press conference, Mayor Young also declined to elaborate.
"I will not discuss personnel matters," he said. "We owe it to [McMillan] not to discuss his personal matters with the news media."
The MOEM's website says its mission is “to maintain the highest level of preparedness to protect Baltimore’s citizens, workers, visitors, and environment from the impact of natural and man-made disasters.” The office is responsible for implementing comprehensive plans for disaster mitigation that include preparedness, response and recovery.
In a Thursday morning written statement to WYPR, the mayor said Charles Svehla, the Assistant Chief of Operations with the Baltimore City Fire Department, will now serve as acting Emergency Manager for the City. In his fire department post, Svehla is responsible for creating and implementing operational procedures.
Svehla will be joined by two additions to the office: Chief James Wallace and Captain Scott Brillman, who will handle the day-to-day operations. Wallace previously served as Battalion Chief of Special Operations. Brillman, formerly 911 Director, previously served as Emergency Preparedness Manager with OEM.
Speaking at the Thursday afternoon press conference, Svehla said that the new additions to the MOEM "probably have more experience... than each individual that was placed in charge [there] over the last 10 years."
"I'm very comfortable and very confident with their abilities and their knowledge, and they've literally hit the ground running," the new acting head said.
“We have a supremely qualified team of emergency management professionals heading up the Office of Emergency Management," Mayor Young said. "Collectively, they have over 85 years of expertise in incident and emergency management,”
Dr. Letitia Dzirasa, the city’s health commissioner, told WYPR the city "remains in good hands."
“We met with new [OEM] leadership yesterday afternoon so they’ve already been briefed," she said on Thursday. "We’re comfortable and confident they know what they’re doing.”
The virus has been documented in at least 114 countries and killed more than 4,000 people. The World Health Organization officially declared the outbreak a pandemic on Wednesday. There are no confirmed cases in Baltimore.
McMillan’s online city biography says he joined the city’s emergency management office in 2011.
“Mr. McMillan has helped the City effectively execute its emergency operations plan during a number of notable incidents and specials events, including Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee, Hurricane Sandy, the 2011 Derecho Storm system, the 2015 Baltimore Civil Unrest, Winter Storm Jonas, both Baltimore Grand Prix, and both the Star Spangled Sailabration and Spectacular,” his biography states.
As of Thursday morning, there were a dozen confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maryland. The first case in Baltimore County was reported Wednesday evening.
This story has been updated.
For state and national updates on COVID-19, visit the Maryland Department of Health’s website.
Read the answers to frequently asked questions about COVID-19 here.