Midday Podcast | WYPR

Midday Podcast


The number of coronavirus cases in the US is now greater than in any other country.  Here in MD, we now have 774 confirmed cases of COVID-19.  In the Capital Region, Baltimore, DC and Virginia, the number of cases has quadrupled since last week.  

As we went on the air today, the House was set to vote on the $2 trillion dollar economic relief package. (The bill was passed by the House in an overwhelming voice vote shortly after this broadcast; the President signed it into law a few hours later.) Many lawmakers had scrambled to return to Washington from their homes across the country in case a roll call vote were made necessary by objections from one or two members. No roll call vote was eventually required.  The Senate had passed the package in the wee hours of Wednesday morning by a vote of 96-0.

The bill calls for unprecedented amounts of federal spending, equal to roughly half of the total federal budget.  And while the final version of the Senate bill was vastly different from the first draft that the upper chamber considered, there are things that are in it, and things that are not in it, that are a source of dissatisfaction on both sides of the aisle.

But for people who have suddenly, and stunningly, been laid off from jobs that seemed completely secure at the beginning of the month, little matters other than whether or not they are going to be able to stay in their homes, and feed themselves and their families.

For insight into what the mammoth aid package will provide -- and what it won't -- for families and businesses in Maryland and across the nation, Tom turns to his first guest today: Senator Chris Van Hollen, Maryland's junior senator, who joins us on the line from his home in Kensington, Maryland.


Federal authorities announced Thursday that a record 3.3 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week.  42,000 of those claims were from Marylanders.  As we went on the air today, the House of Representatives was preparing to vote on the $2.2 trillion dollar economic aid package.  (The measure passed on an overwhelming voice vote in the early afternoon, and the President signed it into law a few hours later.)

A word about Day Care.  The Governor has ordered day care centers to close, but there is a service to provide day care to children of ESSENTIAL PERSONNEL who are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.  There is a free referral hotline. The number is 877-261-0060.

For more analysis of how Maryland families and businesses stand to benefit from the new federal aid package, and from a wide variety of state relief programs, Comptroller Peter Franchot joins Tom until the top of the hour. Maryland's chief fiscal officer and tax collector, Mr. Franchot was elected Comptroller for the first time in 2006.  He is also, at the moment, the only person to have declared his candidacy for Governor in 2022.

AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

The reported number of confirmed cases of novel Coronavirus in the US is likely being undercounted because testing is limited to people who are displaying serious symptoms.

Medical professionals and political leaders are still sounding the alarm about a paucity of beds and equipment as Governors and Mayors across the United States are placing cities and states on lockdown in an attempt to flatten the coronavirus curve.

So what else could we be doing to ease the pressure on our healthcare system?  How does one manage their symptoms at home if they fall sick?  Which underlying conditions make a person high-risk?  And how far away are we from a vaccine? 

Dr. Leana Wen joins Tom for the 'Midday Healthwatch'.  She is a visiting professor of health policy and management at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University, and a distinguished fellow at the Mullan Institute for Health Workforce Equity.  Dr. Leana Wen also served as the Baltimore City Health Commissioner for three years.  


Yesterday, when both Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell expressed optimism about a stimulus deal in the Senate, the stock market responded enthusiastically.  The Dow jumped 2,100 points by the close of trading.   It opened up again this morning.

House and Senate lawmakers wrangled for nearly a week over the third tranche of the most expensive economic stimulus package in American history, and just before one a-m today, Democratic and Republican leaders, along with administration officials, announced a $2 trillion dollar deal had been reached.  It’s expected to be passed and signed into law within days.

Tom's first guest today is Senator Ben Cardin, the Democratic senior senator from Maryland.  Sen. Cardin is a Member of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Ranking Member of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee. He joins us from his office on Capitol Hill.

Harvard University

As the COVID-19 outbreak intensifies in America, concerns are being raised about how racial inequities in our healthcare system will exacerbate the risks for minority communities. 

African Americans are disproportionately affected by chronic health conditions like diabetes and heart disease, conditions the CDC has identified as “high-risk” for serious complications from coronavirus. 

For minorities who live in low income areas, those risks are further compounded by lack of access to healthy food and quality healthcare. 

Tom's next guest is a social scientist who has studied disparities in the health system.  Dr. David R. Williams is a professor of Public Health and African and African-American Studies at Harvard University. 

He joins us on the phone from Boston.

photo by Cianna Greaves

As the COVID-19 pandemic has rippled through the US economy, one of the sectors most severely disrupted is transportation, from airlines and inter-city rail and bus lines to mass transit systems and, to a lesser extent, the trucking industry.

For a perspective on how this vital sector of the economy is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, and what relief it might expect from the latest economic stimulus package, we turn to Ian Duncan.  He covers transportation for the Washington Postand joins us on the phone.

Courtesy of the office of Rep. Anthony G. Brown

The Olympics have been postponed for a year, and within the last hour, the Prime Minister of India ordered a lockdown of his entire country of 1.3 billion people. Here in Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan is scheduled to tour the Convention Center and Hilton Hotel in Baltimore at this hour.  Emergency hospitals are being set up at those locations by the National Guard, in conjunction with the University of Maryland Medical Center and Johns Hopkins Medicine. 

Congress has not yet been able to agree on the third iteration of a stimulus package to prop up the economy in the midst of this unprecedented pandemic. The stock market reacted badly yesterday, even after the Federal Reserve announced it would invest whatever it takes to address mass layoffs and business closures. The S&P Index fell another 3% yesterday, compounding the pain of last week’s 15% plunge.  But it opened higher this morning, amid optimism that the Senate will reach a deal by the end of the day today.   

Rep. Anthony Brown joins me now to discuss the federal government's response to the pandemic.  Congressman Brown has represented Maryland's 4th Congressional District, which includes parts of Anne Arundel and Prince George’s Counties, since 2017.  From 2007 to 2015, Mr. Brown was Maryland’s lieutenant governor, under Gov. Martin O’Malley.   

Courtesy of MD Dept of Aging

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan this morning announced yet another rise in the number of people in our state who have tested positive for the coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 illness.

The majority of cases in Maryland involve patients between the ages of 18 and 64, but medical experts have stressed that senior citizens are among the most vulnerable populations when it comes to this pandemic. In Maryland,  20% of the population is 65 or older. In 10 years, it will be 25%. In Baltimore County, seniors already make up 25% of the population.  

Rona Kramer joins us now. She is the Secretary of the Maryland Department of Aging, and she is a member of the state Coronavirus Response Team.  For more information about what the Department of Aging is doing to help seniors, click here.  Or call the department directly at 410-767-1100.  Secretary Kramer's direct line is 410-767-1102.

Maryland seniors looking for information about long-term services and supports in their communities can go online to the Department's Maryland Access Point or call 1-844-627-5465.

Seniors can also register with the Department's Senior Call Check Program online, or by calling 1-866-502-0560.  The service arranges for agents to call participants at scheduled times every day to see how they're doing, and help them with anything they might need.

Courtesy of nickjmosby.com

Coronavirus has altered the election calendar for many states, including Maryland. The Primary Election for president and local offices has been postponed from April 28th to June 2nd. 

There still is an election on April 28th, to choose a successor to Elijah Cummings in the 7th Congressional District.  That election will be mail-in only.  The State Board of Elections will be mailing ballots to 7th District voters soon.  Be sure to check the Board of Elections website to make sure your address is correct. 

Today, Del. Nick Mosby is Tom's guest, as we continue with our Conversations with the Candidates series.  Mosby is a Democrat.  He has represented Baltimore in Maryland’s House of Delegates since 2017.  Before that, Mosby was a member of the Baltimore City Council for five years, representing Central West Baltimore.  Now, he’s running in the June primary against several other candidates for president of the Baltimore City Council.  

Before he entered politics, Mosby was a manager at Verizon Communications and Baltimore Gas and Electric.  He’s a Baltimore native and a Poly grad.  He holds an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from Tuskegee University and a master’s degrees in telecommunications management from Stevens Institute of Technology.  He is 41 years old. He and his wife, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, live with their two children in Reservoir Hill.  He joins us on the phone from his home.   

Baltimore City Police Department

As we confront the realities of the coronavirus pandemic and the disruption and anxiety it brings — medical personnel and first responders face unique and often dangerous challenges.  How will police, like first responders in hospitals, deal with shortages of protective equipment?    

Tom's guest today is Michael Harrison, the Commissioner of the Baltimore City Police Department.  He’s been on the job for just over one year now.  The BPD continues to respond to unrelenting violence on the city's streets, and now, police are forced to serve and protect Baltimoreans while also confronting the invisible menace of COVID-19. 

The Commissioner joins Tom on the line for the hour, and takes listener calls, emails and Tweets. 

WYPR /Rachel Baye

The disruption from the COVID-19 outbreak has forced massive adjustment to every aspect of daily life.  Politics is no exception.  

Local and national candidates alike have transitioned to virtual rallies and debates.  Here in Baltimore, the large field of candidates for mayor got a little smaller.  State Senator Mary Washington joins Tom to talk about her decision to drop out of the mayor's race.

Plus, a recap of the 440th Maryland General Assembly which ended 19 days early due to the ongoing public health emergency.  WYPR’s Rachel Baye has an update on what lawmakers in Annapolis accomplished before they adjourned.   

Citizens who are dealing with poverty and homelessness are at particularly high risk for infection.  After all, how do you self-isolate when you depend on soup kitchens for food?

And what does it mean to socially distance, or shelter in place, when your place is a single bed in a space shared with hundreds of others?   

Kevin Lindamood, president and CEO of Health Care for the Homeless, joins Tom to discuss COVID-19 challenges for those without shelter.

AP Photo/Brian Witte

As the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 continues to increase across the state and across the nation, state and federal officials are taking unprecedented measures to contain the spread of infection.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced the closing of bars, restaurants, theaters and gyms across the state effective at 5pm today. In accordance with new CDC guidelines, social, religious and community events of more than 50 people are now prohibited by executive order. 

Today on Midday, the new reality of coronavirus.  Tom speaks with Dr. Clifford Mitchell of the Maryland Department of Health, infectious disease specialist Dr. Faheem Younus and Baltimore City Schools CEO, Dr. Sonja Santelises.   

Rachel Baye / WYPR

Yesterday afternoon, Gov. Larry Hogan issued a series of sweeping executive orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, putting the National Guard on high alert, restricting access to public buildings, restricting gatherings of more than 250 people and closing the state’s public schools for two weeks.

Today on Midday, updates from Annapolis – first with Luke Broadwater, who covers the State House for The Baltimore Sun, and then with Bryan Sears, who covers Maryland politics and government for The Daily Record.  They join Tom on the line from Annapolis.

Courtesy of The Greater Baltimore Committee

Across the country and here in Maryland, the number of events large and small that have been canceled continues to grow.  And with Gov. Larry Hogan banning large gatherings of people here in Maryland, business owners are wrestling with the prospect that COVID 19 might severely impede both their customers and their employees.

Joining Tom now with an update on the economic fallout of the outbreak in Baltimore and the region is Donald C. Fry. He’s the President and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee.

Baltimore City Health Department

We begin today with an update on the status of efforts to contain the new coronavirus that's causing COVID-19, a highly contagious and potentially lethal respiratory infection.  As of Thursday noon, there are 12 reported cases in Maryland.  At least one patient is being treated for COVID-19 at a Baltimore hospital.  There have been several cases reported in Montgomery County and Prince Georges County, and last night, officials announced the first case in Baltimore County.

On Wednesday, the World Health Organization declared that the COVID19 outbreak is now officially a pandemic, citing the “alarming levels of severity, spread and infection,” and bemoaning the lack of response to the disease in some countries...

Creative Commons

On today's edition of Midday at the Movies,  two of our favorite film aficionados -- Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday and Maryland Film Festival founder Jed Dietz  -- join Tom for a discussion of the widening impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the entertainment industry. 

Amid a steady stream of public health advisories warning people -- especially folks over 60 -- to avoid large, dense crowds and confined spaces to reduce their risk of infection -- a new survey shows many Americans have serious concerns about whether it's safe to attend public art performances or go to movie theaters.  Growing numbers of public art & film events across the country -- including all Broadway plays in New York City and the huge South By Southwest Festival (SXSW) in Austin -- have been canceled or postponed in the face of the spreading virus.  Late Wednesday, we learned that actor Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson, have tested positive for the virus. On Thursday, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan issued an executive order prohibiting, until further notice, all social, community, religious, recreational, sporting or other events at which more than 250 people would gather.

Bruce F. Press Photography

It's Thursday, and theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom for another of her weekly reviews of the Maryland stage.  Today, she tells us about the new production of Constellations by Baltimore's Vagabond Players.

First produced on Broadway in 2014, Constellations is a mind-bending multi-dimensional romance by British playwright Nick Payne.  Starring Ryan Gunning and Christian Smith, the play is directed at the Vagabond Theater by Michael Byrne Zemarel.

Constellations is provisionally scheduled to continue at Vagabond Theater until March 22, but in light of possible theater closings due to the COVID-19 outbreak, those interested in the production should check the Vagabond Players website for theater-policy updates.

Writer and musician James McBride came to prominence 25 years ago with a beautiful memoir, called The Color of Water.  His novel, The Good Lord Bird, won the National Book Award for Fiction in 2014. 

Last week, McBride published his new novel, set in a Brooklyn housing project in the 1960s.  It is an expansive, insightful masterpiece filled with fascinating characters and trenchant observations.  The book is called Deacon King Kong





AP Photo/Marco Ugarte

Today, a conversation about US immigration policy and its human and economic impacts.

President Donald Trump’s consistently anti-immigrant rhetoric and his efforts to fund and build a massive wall on the southern US border have raised the temperature in the national debate over immigration.

The president has imposed steep reductions in the numbers of immigrants admitted to apply for citizenship, and sharply curtailed US approval of refugee asylum requests — even as the number of people seeking entry to the US has risen.  Families have been forced to wait for months, sometimes years, for their cases to be heard in immigration court, and since last year, many have been sent to wait for their hearings in dangerous Mexican border towns.  Tens of thousands of refugees fleeing war, violence and poverty have been turned away.  The agencies charged with carrying out immigration policy — Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Homeland Security, report stepped-up border apprehensions, undocumented immigrant arrests and deportations.

To help us understand the impact of these changes in US immigration policy, Tom talks today with four people who’ve been on the front lines of America’s immigration conflict...

AP Photo/Julio Cortez

As the fortunes of black quarterbacks in the NFL continue to rise, minority head coaches in the league are seeing their numbers decline.  70 percent of NFL players are minorities, but only three teams will be led by Black coaches at the start of next season. 

Michael Fletcher, senior writer at ESPN’s The Undefeatedand sports journalist Patrick Hruby join Tom Hall for a conversation about football’s diversity problem.

Governor Larry Hogan has announced two new cases of the Coronavirus in Maryland, brining the total number of confirmed infections in the state to 5.  Washington DC has reported its first case, a Rector at a historic church in Georgetown.  And a DC public high school has been closed after a staff member came in contact with someone who has the virus.  There are 9 known cases in the Baltimore-Washington-Virginia region at this point.   

Dr. Wilbur H. Chen, an adult infectious disease speicialist at the Unviversity of Maryland School of Medicine,  joins Tom to discuss the status of testing, and the prospects for a vaccine.   

Senator Ben Cardin

Tom's guest for today's Newsmaker interview is the senior U.S. Senator from Maryland, Ben Cardin.  First elected to the Senate in 2006, he’s the Ranking Member of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee.  He is a longtime member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Environment & Public Works committees.  He also serves on the Senate Finance Committee.

Senator Cardin joins us to discuss a range of urgent topics facing Marylanders and the nation, starting with the response to the widening US outbreak of CoVID19, the new coronavirus disease that's now turned up in more than 20 states, including three new cases just reported in Montgomery County, Maryland...


We begin today with a look at the results of a new poll released this morning by WYPR, the Baltimore Sun and the University of Baltimore on the race for Baltimore City Council President.   This new voter survey comes on the heels of another WYPR/Sun/UB poll released yesterday that's given us one of our first insights into the status of the race for Baltimore mayor.  Tom is joined in the studio by WYPR's city hall reporter Emily Sullivan for a review of key findings in both polls.

The conversation was livestreamed on WYPR's Facebook page.  Watch the video here, from the beginning until 08:45 into the feed.

Hsu photo by Adam Curtis/Catalyte; SkillSmart

Today, another edition of Midday on Business, with some interesting perspectives on Baltimore's employment marketplace. 

The city's overall unemployment rate has been steadily declining over the past decade. It’s currently at 4.2 percent, down from a high of 11.8 percent in 2010 at the height of the financial crisis.  By that measure, the city lags only slightly behind the Maryland and national average of 3.5%, but when viewed through the prism of racial equity, the city’s employment picture is less encouraging. 

According to a recent report by Associated Black Charities, African American workers in Baltimore City are largely employed in lower-wage industries and occupations, they tend to earn less than their white counterparts, and they experience higher job turnover. African Americans own nearly half of all businesses in Baltimore, but they employ only 2% of the city’s paid employees and account for only 1.4% of all sales.

Joining Tom in the studio are two men whose innovative private companies are working to change those workforce dynamics, here in Baltimore and around the country... 

photo by Gene Bruskin

It's Thursday, and time for theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck to join us with another of her weekly reviews of the region's thespian offerings.  Today, she tells us about the musical play The Moment Was Now, a production of the Cultural Worker Ensemble that debuted in Baltimore last September and that's getting a reprise production at the Emmanuel Episcopal Church through Sunday, March 8.

A political fantasy set in post-Civil War Baltimore during a fateful turn in American history, The Moment Was Now imagines an 1869 meeting between civil rights champion Frederick Douglass and a high-powered group of Baltimore-based leaders of progressive social movements of the day -- all of whom actually knew one another. At this fictional meeting are women's voting rights evangelist Susan B. Anthony, black union organizer Isaac Myers, African American teacher and abolitionist Frances Harper, and white labor organizer William Sylvis.

Today, we continue our Conversations with the Candidates series with the two candidates who are running for Baltimore City comptroller, which is one of only three positions elected citywide. 

Joan M. Pratt has served as Baltimore City’s comptroller since 1995. Ms. Pratt is a Certified Public Accountant.  She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Hampton Institute in Virginia, and a Master’s degree in Taxation from the University of Baltimore.  Comptroller Pratt began her career at the accounting firm of Coopers & Lybrand. She also served as Comptroller of the Baltimore Legal Aid Bureau. She is 68 years old and she lives in Homeland.

Bill Henry has represented District 4, in North Baltimore, on the Baltimore City Council since 2007.  Mr. Henry serves on the Council’s Biennial Audits Oversight Commission and the Budget & Appropriations Committee. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Urban Studies and Public Policy from Johns Hopkins, and an MBA from Loyola University Maryland. He is 51 years old. He and his wife and their two daughters live in Radnor-Winston.

We livestreamed this conversation on the WYPR Facebook page.  Click here to watch the video. 

Simon and Schuster, Inc.

One of the big "X factors" in the Super Tuesday primaries -- which are underway today from coast to coast, and even among Democrats living abroad -- is former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg

He’s been a familiar name for decades, first as a highly successful businessman who created the Bloomberg Media empire, then as a billionaire philanthropist whose largess has been felt across a wide swath of society, from the arts and education to public health and the environment.

In 2001, on the heels of the 9/11 attacks, Bloomberg, who'd been a lifelong Democrat, was elected as a Republican to succeed Rudolph Giuliani as New York City's mayor. He self-financed two more successful mayoral elections in New York.  He changed his party afiliation to Independent in 2007. In 2012, Bloomberg endorsed President Barack Obama's re-election, and he supported Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign against Republican Donald Trump.  Since last November 24th, when he announced his intention to run for president, he has spent an unprecedented half-billion dollars of his own money on a campaign to win the Democratic nomination for the highest office in the land...

Courtesy of MPT and POLITICO

It’s Midday on Politics.

For analysis of Saturday’s South Carolina Primary, and the end of the road for candidates Pete Buttigieg and Tom Steyer, plus a preview of tomorrow’s Super Tuesday battle among the remaining Democratic candidates -- and where we might find ourselves on Wednesday morning -- Tom is joined by two skilled political observers:

Charles Robinson is the longtime political/business reporter for Maryland Public Television.  He is here in Studio A.

Zach Montellaro is a campaign reporter for POLITICO and the author of POLITICO’s Morning Score newsletter.  He joins us on the line from NPR in Washington, DC.

We livestreamed this conversation on the WYPR Facebook page.  Click here to watch the video. 

Photo by Mark Barry

Sandra Magsamen is an artist and a best-selling author. 

She has sold more than 5 million books for both children and adults, and her greeting cards, clothing and gifts are available on line and in major stores all over the world. 

She grew up in Baltimore, and she has returned to the area to be the keynote speaker, tomorrow morning, at the Harford County Public Library's Third Annual Women's Summit.  The theme this year is "Living Artfully: Creating the Life You Imagine."  That event is now sold out. 

We livestreamed this conversation on the WYPR Facebook page.  Click here to see the video.