AFSCME | WYPR

AFSCME

Wikimedia Commons

Somerset County, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, has a nearly 16% COVID-19 positivity rate, the second highest in the state. According to the governor’s office, the majority of the county’s COVID-19 cases are linked to the prison in Westover, the state’s largest prison.

John Lee

Last week, in response to the alarming rise of COVID-19 cases, Gov. Larry Hogan ordered all state employees who can telework to do so. 

“Effective immediately all state employees who are approved to telework must again begin a period of mandatory telework except for essential direct public facing services and other essential personnel,” Hogan said at a press conference on Nov. 10.

Maryland GovPics / Flickr

The number of COVID-19 cases among employees of the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration continues to grow, with more than a dozen workers out across multiple locations as of Thursday. However, the union that represents those workers says the agency is doing little to prevent the virus from continuing to spread. 

Maryland GovPics / Flickr


Renee Nadreau started feeling sick two weeks ago. She had a cough and a headache. At first she thought it might be allergies. Then she woke up one day and couldn’t taste her coffee.

 

“Right then I knew I had COVID,” Nadreau said. 

CREDIT CARMICHAELLIBRARY/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

After a new outbreak of COVID-19, the University of Maryland, College Park is quarantining 200 students in one of its dorms for 14 days. The union representing thousands of employees at the university says it’s concerned about the safety of workers and students. 

Stuart Katzenberg, a representative of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Maryland Council 3, which oversees the union local. Katzenberg said that members of the union working at Denton Hall, where the students are quarantined, are now at risk of contracting the virus.

Maryland’s public universities have for months strategized about ways to keep students and faculty safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. But staff members who provide essential services, from housekeeping to IT, at many of those universities say their schools’ leaders have treated their safety and wellbeing as afterthoughts.

Members of the labor union that represents the staff shared their concerns with a group of state lawmakers on Wednesday.


Rachel Baye / WYPR

Thousands of state employees got a pay cut this week, when the state eliminated an emergency pay bump for some of the workers performing jobs classified as "essential" during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 

Social workers, police and corrections officers, and hospital staff were among those getting an extra $3.13 per hour or an extra $5.15 an hour when they worked in a quarantine unit of people who had tested positive for COVID-19. 

Elvert Barnes/Flickr


Maryland’s public defenders have announced their intent to unionize. The lawyers and their support staff said unionizing will help ease the challenges of enormous caseloads and improve working conditions during the coronavirus pandemic in the courtroom and beyond. 

They are organizing with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, the largest union for state government employees. 

Rachel Baye / WYPR

Maryland’s Board of Public Works plans to vote Wednesday on more than $672 million in budget cuts. The proposed cuts would affect nearly every part of state government, from schools to healthcare to public safety.

 

Gov. Larry Hogan called for the cuts to deal with a massive drop in revenues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rachel Baye / WYPR

Gov. Larry Hogan announced on May 20 that the state would do “universal testing” for COVID-19 at juvenile detention facilities. But the vast majority of both the youth residents and the staff at these facilities have yet to be tested, and the state Department of Juvenile Services doesn’t expect to finish the first round of tests until the end of July.

Rachel Baye / WYPR

  

The state government employees who process unemployment insurance claims and work in state prisons, juvenile services facilities, hospitals and universities say they lack the resources necessary to do their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic. 

 

The workers spoke Tuesday at a virtual meeting of the state House Appropriations and Senate Finance committees.

Maryland Department of Health

Employees in state hospitals and correctional faclilites have been worrying about the difficult and dangerous conditions they've been working under since this pandemic began.

Wednesday, they found an advocate in State Treasurer Nancy Kopp. She pressed Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford at the Board of Public Works meeting on the need at many facilities for medical supplies and for better communication from the administration of Gov. Larry Hogan.

Maryland Department of Health

The first patient from a state run hospital in Maryland died of COVID -19 over the weekend, a state health official confirmed.

The patient was staying in the geriatric ward of the Spring Grove Hospital Center in Catonsville, where, in the last two weeks, several patients and employees have tested positive for COVID-19.

Spring Grove is one of about ten state run hospitals that have a total of 1400 patients.  The Clifton T. Perkins Medical Center in Howard County is also experiencing an outbreak.  

Andrew Harnick / Associated Press

As Gov. Larry Hogan’s press conference was getting underway Monday, Miriam Doyle, a clinical social worker at Clifton T. Perkins Psychiatric Hospital in Howard County for three years, was trying to listen for the updates she says her patients are desperate for.

She, her co-workers, and her patients had just learned about the outbreak in their hospital, where eight patients and a staff member had tested positive for Covid-19, and Doyle wanted to hear what the governor had to tell them. But her attention was diverted.

Steve Ruark / AP

Approximately 10,000 state employees who are required to work during Maryland’s COVID-19 state of emergency will no longer receive extra pay during this period.  

Rachel Baye

Chronic understaffing at several state agencies is forcing employees to work 80-hour workweeks and endure dangerous work environments, some employees told state lawmakers at a briefing Tuesday.

Rachel Baye

A few dozen members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees labor union’s Maryland chapter protested Thursday outside Government House, where Gov. Larry Hogan lives. The group was calling attention to problems with the state’s new payroll system that it says has shortchanged several hundred corrections workers.

  

In October, sweeping reforms to the state’s criminal justice system will shrink the state prison population. But that means the population of offenders on parole and probation will increase. Employees in the Maryland Division of Parole and Probation said they are worried about the anticipated increase at a news conference Thursday morning.