WYPR Coronavirus Coverage | WYPR

WYPR Coronavirus Coverage

Dr. Popular/Creative Commons

Tuesday is the deadline to mail-in your ballot in the statewide primary election for President and Congressional offices, and here in Baltimore, all three citywide offices, and members of the city council. 

In the handful of other states that had mail-in elections in place before the pandemic, switching from the ballot box to the mailbox involved years of planning.  But in late April, Maryland election officials quickly organized mail-in balloting in the special election for the Congressional seat in the 7th District, and now, just weeks later, they are conducting the primary by mail, statewide. Nikki Charlson joins us on the line from Annapolis with an update. She is Deputy Administrator of the Maryland State Board of Elections.

Katie Kirby/Revolution Event Design & Production via AP

Gov. Larry Hogan said he was concerned after seeing photos of crowds packing the Ocean City boardwalk over Memorial Day Weekend. But on Friday morning, he told NBC’s Today Show that lifting restrictions on outdoor dining, which is allowed beginning Friday at 5 p.m., will improve social distancing.

Public Theater

Now, an update on how the American theater world is creatively adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to keep its theaters and community stages dark.  Theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck has been watching a steady stream of innovative online "virtual" productions by local and national companies, and she joins Tom via Skype to share a few recommendations...

AP photo/Ross D. Franklin

Treasured rewards for the hard work of high school--the prom, senior week, graduation--have all been canceled, postponed, or reworked to keep students and families at a social distance.

Five recent or soon-to-be graduates from across Maryland share how the coronavirus upended their senior year, and how it’s affecting their goals and plans.

We hear from Michelle Castro, Annie Squire Southworth, Laila Amin, Corey Harris and Aliyah Abid. Here's to the resilience of the Class of 2020!

John Lee

The Baltimore County Council is poised to pass a budget for the coming fiscal year Friday with historic levels of cuts.

County employees likely will see raises deferred and the school system will take a hit as well. At the same time, the Republican minority on the council is considering proposing a tax cut at Friday’s meeting.

The Daily Dose 5-28-20

May 28, 2020
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

Maryland moves further into Phase I of its reopening plan. Al fresco dining gets the go-ahead in Baltimore. Legislators raise their eyebrows over the state’s PPE procurement process. And Baltimore County looks to close the racial and economic divide for students.

AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

Baltimore restaurants with outdoor dining permits can begin serving customers at 5 p.m. this Friday, but outside only, Mayor Jack Young announced Thursday. 


Hours later, Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski announced that outdoor dining will be allowed beginning at 5 p.m. Friday in the county as well. And he said restrictions on retail stores, houses of worship, day camps and pools in the county will be eased as well.

The announcements come one day after Gov. Larry Hogan lifted several pandemic-related restrictions throughout Maryland, including on outdoor dining.

In addition, officials in Anne Arundel and Howard counties announced they, too, would allow outdoor dining and ease restrictions on retail establishments as well.

Baltimore Mayor Young said in a statement he wanted to "thank all of our business owners and restaurant employees for their patience and continued adherence to the use of social distancing and face coverings as we allow for this next step in our reopening.” 

Howard Co. Library/Creative Commons

Since the start of the pandemic several months ago, many of us have been working from home, ordering our groceries online, and Zooming with friends.  Kids are learning remotely.  It’s the new normal, right? 

If the pandemic has changed the way you do just about everything, consider yourself lucky. What about our neighbors who don’t have a computer or a reliable way to access the internet? They are more cut off than ever, and their children fall behind when teachers are livestreaming lessons and asking kids to upload homework.

Why is it that 40% of Baltimore residents lack broadband access to the internet?  In a city where red-lining in housing has a long history, has red-lining moved from the street to the internet? 

We begin with Dr. John Horrigan.  He’s the author of a new report for the Abell Foundation that describes the impact of Baltimore’s Digital Divide on low-income city residents. Dr. Horrigan is a senior fellow at the Technology Policy Institute. 

Then, Chrissie Powell and Andrew Coy join the conversation.  Powell is the Baltimore site director of Byte Back, Inc., a tech-inclusion nonprofit that offers free technical skills classes for adult learners.  Coy is the executive director of the Digital Harbor Foundation, which teaches coding and other computer and tech skills to K-12 students.  They are both leaders of the Baltimore Digital Equity Coalition, which includes about 50 groups that are working together to reduce our city’s Digital Divide. 

AP photo/Gerald Herbert

When deaths from Covid-19 began adding up two months ago, and schools and businesses closed and jobs started to evaporate, did all the stress trigger a surge in calls to mental- health providers? Dr. Anthony Massey, founder of Gladstone Psychiatry and Wellness, says he saw just the opposite ... but Massey agrees with those who say a wave of mental-health problems is coming. Where will people turn for help? Will there be enough providers? Then Cheryl Maxwell of the Black Mental Health Alliance, discusses how the pandemic is affecting the mental health of African Americans.

Baltimore County Public Schools

The COVID-19 pandemic is making clear the divide between the rich and the poor students in Baltimore County schools, according to members of the school board.

Closing that divide may be made more difficult because the board itself is divided and distracted.

Joel McCord

Gov. Larry Hogan announced Wednesday that Maryland could move into the final stages of Phase 1of his Covid-19 recovery plan.

Under his new orders, restaurants and social organizations such as American Legions, VFWs and Elks Clubs would be able to open for outdoor dining as of 5 p,m, Friday, provided they follow strict health and safety guidelines.

The same goes for outdoor swimming pools, youth sports activities and day camps.

The Governor's Office

As Maryland officials raced to meet the state’s urgent need for medical supplies over the last two months, two deals gained national attention:  The governor’s procurement of 500,000 COVID-19 test kits from South Korea and a $12.5-million contract for ventilators and masks from a company started by two Republican fundraisers.

On Wednesday, state lawmakers grilled an official in Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration over whether the tests from South Korea are actually being used. They questioned whether officials have been too quick to approve these deals.

The Daily Dose 5-27-20

May 27, 2020

A special late-breaking edition of the podcast: Governor Hogan says the state is ready to expand Stage 1 of reopening. Plus, a photographer gives local high school seniors a reason to show off their prom outfits. And Baltimore’s YouthWorks summer program adapts to place young job-seekers in online jobs.

Joe Giordano

  As Emilia Vizachero poses for a portrait on the steps of her soon-to-be alma mater, her photographer makes a request that would’ve seemed alien just a few months ago: can he get a shot of her removing her face mask?


Vizachero, donned in a striped shirt and a royal blue skirt with a matching face mask, obliges. 


The photographer, Joe Giordano, takes a second to adjust his camera – his own mask has fogged up his camera’s viewfinder. 

Hopkins Center for Health Security

Even as the death count from the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States continues to climb, many local and state leaders across the nation, including here in Maryland, have pointed to gradual reductions in coronavirus hospitalizations to justify their decisions to begin lifting two-month-old quarantine restrictions. Over the Memorial Day weekend, some areas of the country saw a surge in mass public gatherings at reopened shops, on beaches and in public parks, where six feet of separation and masks seemed to be the exception, not the rule. 

But public health experts warn that the coronavirus threat is far from over, and that in order to prevent a surge of new infections, a rigorous program of testing and contact tracing will be essential.  What is contact tracing?  And how do you launch a national and international contact tracing program? ...

The Daily Dose 5-26-20

May 26, 2020

Howard County prepares to reopen some businesses at 50 percent capacity later this week. Those in Maryland’s nursing homes remain isolated, with no change in sight. And in Baltimore, Health Commissioner Letitia Dzirasa says more testing is needed before the city can reopen.

Wikimedia Commons

Retailers, hair salons and barbers in Howard County can open at 50% capacity starting Friday morning, County Executive Calvin Ball announced Tuesday. It marks a slight easing of the county’s current restrictions, which allow stores to offer curbside pickup and delivery and allow hair salons and barbershops to open by appointment in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The new rules also permit religious institutions to hold outdoor services with up to 250 people, so long as they can sit or stand six feet apart from one other. The rules currently in place prohibit any services, indoor or outdoor, larger than 10 people.

AP Photo/Julio Cortez

Health issues still dog Baltimore -- food deserts … addiction to opioids ... disparities in the health of babies and new mothers ... diabetes ... asthma. Now such chronic diseases often complicate recovering from the coronavirus. The White House said last week that Baltimore is near the top of cities whose residents test positive for Covid-19. City health commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa said testing shows not just the reach of the pandemic, but how to control it. The city is taking testing into its own hands. When will Baltimore City judge it’s safe to reopen? 

Find the Baltimore City Coronavirus dashboard here. Find the New York Times piece on racial disparities at nursing homes here.  The MAP (Maryland Access Point) phone number is 410 396 2273 .

Alissa Eckert, Dan Higgins/CDC

Most of us are seeing a gradual reopening of our lives as COVID-19 restrictions are being eased. But for people living in nursing homes and assisted living, little has changed.

There are things we can do to help those who remain isolated with no end in sight.

The Daily Dose 5-22-20

May 22, 2020

The top news of the day from Baltimore City, Baltimore County, and around the state. Plus, a deep dive into the Digital Divide. Who has access to computers and wired broadband internet? Who doesn’t? And what are the repercussions? Is internet access a human right in the era of Coronavirus?

The Daily Dose 5-21-20

May 21, 2020
Baltimore County

Varying states of emergency and uneven restrictions across the state have local leaders on the defensive with their constituents. And we talk with a palliative care specialist about her role as a bridge between isolated COVID-19 patients and their families.


Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic two months ago, more than 43,500 Marylanders have been sickened by the coronovirus.  It has killed more than 2000 Marylanders, 270 of them residents of Baltimore County.  And while the rate of hospitalizations in the state has finally begun to decline, as of today there are still 1,375 people receiving intensive care for COVID-19, many of them at medical facilities here in Baltimore. 

Now, a story from the front lines of the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, from Marian Grant.  She is a palliative care nurse practitioner at the University of Maryland Medical Center, and a policy consultant on health care issues with a DNP doctorate in nursing. And for the last several weeks, she has been working with COVID 19 patients, their families, and the medical teams in the UMMC's Intensive Care Unit.

She joins Tom via Skype phone from her home in Reisterstown, Maryland

Read Marian Grant's opinion piece in today's Baltimore Sun Op Ed section, here.

Baltimore County

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski relaxed Thursday COVID-19 related restrictions on churches and businesses in the county.

Meanwhile, the Baltimore County Council debated what it means to be under a state of emergency and whether it should be extended.

At a morning news conference, Olszewski said retail stores can reopen starting at 9 am Friday. But no more than 10 people, including staff, can be inside the store at a time.

verkeorg / Flickr Creative Commons

Thousands of low-income families are making it through the pandemic without a computer or reliable Internet access. For students, that means distance learning without a screen big enough to see or a keyboard big enough to type. For adults who have lost their jobs, it means it’s hard to apply for work or unemployment.

Emily Sullivan/WYPR

Stores in Baltimore City are closed. In Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties, retail is open for curbside pickup and delivery. In Harford and Carroll counties, customers can actually go inside stores.

When Gov. Larry Hogan replaced his stay-at-home order with a “Safer at Home” advisory and lifted some other statewide restrictions last week, he said what’s considered safe will necessarily vary county by county. He pointed to Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, which together account for more than half of the state’s COVID-19 cases. He left it up to local officials to decide how to move forward into the first phase of his recovery plan. 


The result is a patchwork of rules that change as you cross county lines. Some county health officers told state lawmakers on Wednesday that the variation forces them into a defensive position as they explain their choices to confused residents. 

The Daily Dose 5-20-20

May 20, 2020

A new WYPR poll shows how Baltimore feels about voting by mail. Baltimore County Public Schools prepare for an influx of private school students. And two Maryland companies are helping to train a new workforce.


Today, a look at the road ahead for the millions of Americans who’ve lost their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic.  

Over the past three months, as COVID-19 has taken the lives of more than 90,000 Americans and sickened over a million and a half others, it has also ravaged the US economy. Nationwide business shutdowns have produced levels of unemployment and business failure that haven’t been seen in the US since the Great Depression of the 1930s -- a crisis that prompted Congress to pass a series of multi-trillion-dollar financial relief measures.  Now, as the nation’s economy gradually begins to re-open, what are the job prospects for the legions of unemployed, both here in Baltimore and across America? 

Tom's guests today run two of the region’s most innovative workforce development and technology training companies.

AP photo/John Minchillo

Governor Hogan’s decision to relax some restrictions and partly open commerce in the state has been met with elation … and confusion. Ashley Duckman from the Maryland Chamber of Commerce tells us about its ‘ReNEW Maryland’’ proposal, a policy road map to assist business owners and customers through the ‘great reopening.’ And Caryn York, CEO of the Job Opportunities Task Force, says the opening may present a tough choice for many of her clients, who are essential workers. Plus, Tammira Lucas from Moms As Entrepreneurs who talks about what’s available and not available for moms who own businesses.

Go here to see the ReNEW Maryland plan from the Maryland Chamber of Commerce. Visit this link to learn more about and support Job Opportunities Task Force and go here to learn more about and support Moms As Entrepreneurs.

Friends School

Many public schools in Baltimore County are already overcrowded and county officials believe that could get worse because of a coming stream of students from private schools.

They are worried that some parents might get priced out of private schools in the COVID-19 economy.