Midday | WYPR


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Yesterday was day one of distance learning for Baltimore City School students, and for kids all over the state.  How can parents and students best maintain “continuity of learning?”  And what about parents who can’t be at home, to homeschool their kids?

Remote learning has laid bare the extent of the digital divide between poor communities and others.  Many kids live in households that don’t own a computer, or access to Wi-Fi.  How can we acquire and distribute the technology these kids need? 


Liz Bowie covers education for The Baltimore Sun


Photo Courtesy / Pratt Library

Like so many other institutions across the state, public libraries have shuttered pursuant to Gov. Hogan’s stay at home order. 

But that hasn’t kept libraries from staying connected with their communities.  

Through digital platforms, and telecommunication, the Enoch Pratt Library is making valuable resources like, tutors, research databases, online classes and of course, books, available to students across the city.  

Guest: Heidi Daniel is the CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library.   


AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

As we continue to hunker down in our homes (and that includes Midday host Tom Hall)a conversation about two very important elections coming up in the next couple of months. 

Voters in the 7th Congressional District have three weeks to vote for a successor to the late Congressman Elijah Cummings.  Democrat Kweisi Mfume is running against Republican Kimberly Klacik to fill the remaining time in the late congressman’s term.  Voters will vote by mail.  Ballots must be postmarked no later than April 28th.

Ballots should start arriving in the mailboxes of 7th District voters soon.  If you don’t receive a ballot this week, you should go on line or call the Board of Elections to be sure you get a ballot in time.  

We'll talk about the second election, the re-scheduled June 2nd primary for local and national races, in our segment later this hour with Democratic candidate Dan Sparaco, who's running to be Baltimore's next City Council President.  

Last Friday here on Midday, we talked with the Secretary of State of Washington, Kim Wyman, who has overseen mail-in elections there for several years.  Today, Tom checks in with a former Secretary of State of Maryland who is a nationally recognized expert on voting procedures and election reform. 


Now, another in our series of Conversations with the Candidates. Tom's guest is Dan Sparaco, an attorney in private practice and a candidate who's running in the June 2 primary election for Baltimore City Council President.

He is one of eight candidates -- seven Democrats and one Republican -- in the race.  He is running on a platform of political reform and a fundamental restructuring of the City Council.

Mr. Sparaco is a native New Yorker who earned his law degree at the University of Pennsylvania and worked for several years as an attorney with The Legal Aid Society in New York.  He moved to Baltimore in 2010 to work in Baltimore’s Legal Department.  In 2013, he was appointed Assistant Deputy Mayor for Operations under Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

Dan Sparaco is 44 years old. He lives in Greenmount West, and he joins Tom on the line from his home office.

Listeners with questions or comments are invited to call, email or tweet during the live broadcast. 

Doctor Popular/Flickr Creative Commons

Yesterday, the Democratic National Committee announced it is delaying its convention from July until August.  Many primaries, including the one here in Maryland, have also been delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic.  

Several states have decided to hold their primaries and other elections by mail.  And for some states, this is nothing new. But for others, like Maryland, it is largely uncharted territory.  Voters in the 7th Congressional District will be the first to use it. Ballots in the special election to fill the seat held by Elijah Cummings were mailed this week. Voters have until April 28th to postmark their ballots for that race. 

We begin today with a look at mail-in elections, including Maryland's primary, now scheduled for June 2. Tom’s first guest is Kim Wyman.  She is the Secretary of State for Washington State, where elections have been conducted by mail since 2011. 

Then, Baltimore City Election Director Armstead Jones joins the conversation. If you are a city resident in Maryland's 7th Congressional District and you have not yet received a ballot in the mail to vote in the April 28 Special Election, call 410-396-1444. 

If you are a voter anywhere in Maryland, click here to check or update your address to ensure that you receive a ballot in the mail for the June 2 primary. 

Now, a conversation with Ira Kress, the interim president of Giant Food. We’ll ask about those empty shelves you may have encountered at the grocery store, and whether the situation is improving. 

Giant has 163 supermarkets in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and DC, with about 20,000 employees.  And those folks who work at grocery stores and pharmacies are on the front-line in the battle against Covid-19.  They are among the essential employees who are allowed to take public transportation and travel around the state despite stay-at-home orders for everyone else.  And they are important links in the supply chain for food, medicine and other essential products.  And with an increased demand for groceries, at a time when so many of us are eating only at home, Giant is hiring. 

Mr. Kress joins us on the line from Anne Arundel County.

There are  plenty of new movies that are, by necessity, skipping theaters and going straight to streaming platforms.  

Independent movie theaters have taken the lead in responding to the business downturn predicated by Coronavirus.   Midday’s movie mavens, Ann Hornaday, Washington Post film critic and author of Talking Pictures: How to Watch Movies,  and Jed Dietz, founding director of the Maryland Film Festival, join Tom with their streaming suggestions. 


Licensed nutritionist Monica Reinagel talks about the relationship between healthy eating and our immune system.  


Can we eat certain foods to boost our immunity?  Are there foods we should avoid because they might suppress immunity?  And, how can we shop strategically, to minimize the trips we need to make to the grocery store?


Monica Reinagel is the host of the Nutrition Diva podcast.  She blogs for the Huffington Post and Scientific American.

Heard on the show: a new Omni Calculator that tells you how much food you need to purchase for two weeks of quarantine.  

This innovative tool is the invention of Polish dietician, and Ph.D candidate Joanna Michalowska. It's called the Quarantine Food Calculator. Click here to give it a try.    

 Last Friday President Donald Trump signed a $2 trillion relief bill to mitigate the effects of the COVID19 crisis on the American economy.  The bill, named The CARES Act, is the largest ever financial stimulus in  U.S. history.


Congressman John Sarbanes joins Tom to discuss the details of the package: What’s in it? Who will benefit?  And will further government subsidies be needed to keep the economy afloat for as long as it takes to conquer the coronavirus? 


For Black and Brown communities across America, undercounting during the census can severely affects critical funding.  At stake, trillions of dollars in funding for schools, social programs, health care and economic development.


The National Urban League is one of many groups that have partnered with the Census Bureau to ensure that historically marginalized and underserved communities are being accurately represented in the once a decade count.


Marc Morial, the president and CEO of The National Urban League, joins Tom for a discussion about the importance of the census for minority communities, and how the process will be impacted by the Coronavirus outbreak.    

AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali

While the United States remains the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, European nations continue to struggle to mitigate the serious outbreaks within their borders.  Italy has reported more than 11,500 deaths.  More than 8,100 people have died in Spain. 

And in Britain, as officials intensify efforts to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced last Friday that he himself had tested positive for COVID19.   He is self-isolating at Number 10 Downing Street. 

A few days later, the prime minister's Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, who has been coordinating Britain’s medical response to the pandemic, also went into self-isolation after he displayed symptoms of COVID19. 

There have been 22,465 reported cases of COVID 19 in the United Kingdom as of today.  1,408 people have died. 

NPR London correspondent Frank Langfitt joins Tom with the latest on how the British are coping with COVID-19. 

Tom’s guest today is Martin O’Malley, who served as the mayor of Baltimore from 1999 to 2007, and as the 61st Governor of Maryland, from 2007 to 2015.  In 2016, he sought the Democratic nomination for president of the United States.

For decades, an argument about the fundamental role of government has raged between those on the political right who often think of government as invasive and overbearing, and those on the left who see social programs and other functions of government as a fundament of American society.  As political leaders confront the COVID-19 pandemic at the local, state and federal levels, the need for governmental intervention in times of crisis is acknowledged by those of every political stripe.

Drawing on his own experience as a Maryland chief executive, Martin O’Malley has written a book about leadership, and how executives at all levels of government can employ best practices to improve outcomes in violence reduction, education, the environment, and a host of other issues.  The book is called Smarter Government: How to Govern for Results in the Information AgeYou can explore its central themes at smartergovernment.comMartin O’Malley joins Tom on the phone from his home in Baltimore.


In today's conversation, Gov. O'Malley mentions his interest in the urgent appealsent out by the directors of Emergency Management and Healthcare Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Medicine, for donations of Powered Air Purifying Respirators (PAPRs), a critically important type of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers treating coronavirus patients.  If you can help provide this or other PPE resources, please contact George Lavdas, Hopkins' Senior Director for Supply Chain Transformation, by email at: glavdas1@jhmi.edu, or by cell at: (443) 766-0758. 

Dr. Leigh Vanocur

We begin today with Dr. Leigh Vinocur, a board certified emergency physician who has worked and taught for more than two decades at some of our area’s leading medical institutions, including the University of Maryland, Medstar Health, and Sinai Hospital.  She is a national spokesperson for the American College of Emergency Physicians, a 40,000 member organization that has been sounding the alarm on the worsening crisis in many of the nation's emergency rooms and intensive care units. An unprecedented deluge of patients sickened by COVID-19 is overwhelming many of these medical facilities, where a shortage of ventilators and personal protection equipment such as gowns, gloves and anti-viral masks are putting both patients and medical staff at ever-greater risk.   Dr. Vinocur joins Tom on the phone from her home in Baltimore.


Our series of Conversations with the Candidates continues today with Carl Stokes, one of seven Democratic candidates vying to be the next Baltimore City Council President.  The current Council President, Brandon Scott, is running for Mayor, so there is no incumbent in the race.  Carl Stokes is a familiar figure to folks who have been around a while.  He served on the Baltimore City Council in the mid 1980s, and again from 2010-2016.

This is not Mr. Stokes’ first try at city-wide office.  In 1999, he ran for mayor, losing that primary to Martin O’Malley.  He ran for mayor again in 2016.  He has had professional experience in the retail clothing business, the health care industry, and as an education administrator.  He is a founder of two public charter schools in Baltimore: the Bluford Drew Jemison STEM Academy, and the Banneker-Blake Academy for Arts and Science.  The Banneker-Blake School was closed by the Baltimore City School Board last year.

Carl Stokes is a graduate of Loyola High School.  He attended Loyola University for two years.  He is 69 years old, and the father of two grown children.  He joins Tom on the line from his home in Greater Greenmount.

Listener comments and questions were welcomed.


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.

Cianna Greaves / WYPR

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...