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As Halloween approaches, you may want to rethink how you celebrate this year. 

Dr. Chris Thompson, an immunologist at Loyola University Maryland, says trick or treating may not be the best of ideas.

He told WYPR’s The Daily Dose there are ways to do it with minimal exposure to COVID-19.  

Maureen Harvie/WYPR

In the wake of disgraced ex-mayor Catherine Pugh’s resignation, the Baltimore City Council introduced so many charter amendments intended to restructure power in City Hall that City Council President Brandon Scott created a new committee to manage them. 

Many of those proposed amendments made it to the November general election ballots. City voters can find a complete ballot preview here.

 

Voters tend to overwhelmingly approve ballot questions; in 2016, city voters passed all 10 of Baltimore's charter amendments and bond issues.  

 

If you’re a Marylander in need of health insurance for next year, the open enrollment period starts in November and rates have gone down since last year. 

Maryland Insurance Commissioner Kathleen A. Birrane said prices for insurance plans have dropped for three consecutive years, for an approximate cumulative 30 percent drop since 2018. 

“The 2021 plans reflect really the lowest rates in years,” she said in a webinar Wednesday afternoon. “Which is extraordinary and wonderful.” 

Emily Sullivan/WYPR

Baltimore will outsource water meter reading operations to the same third-party vendor that installed water meters throughout the city earlier this decade, Mayor Jack Young announced Wednesday. 

Young said the city has a five year contract with Itron, a Washington state based company, to conduct meter reading, small meter installation and general maintenance. It’s not the first time the company has worked with Baltimore: in 2013, the city awarded Itron an $83 million contract to overhaul and upgrade its water metering infrastructure, which included adding additional meters.   

John Lee

Baltimore County voters are deciding if the county can use tax money to finance political campaigns. The proposed change to the county charter is Question A on the ballot.

Northeast Baltimore Walking Tour/Wikimedia Commons

The Baltimore City Council held a busy virtual meeting Monday night. They passed two prominent bills that re-examine the legacy of Christopher Columbus, plus two bills to boost protections for the city’s hospitality labor force. They also introduced two new bills to create an evictions assistance program for city renters and officially suspend water shutoffs. WYPR’s Emily Sullivan and Nathan Sterner talk through each piece of legislation. 

Baltimore County Police Department

Changes are coming to the Baltimore County Police Department.

After months of debate, the county council approved police reform legislation Monday night.

SCREENSHOT VIA BALTIMORE COUNTY COUNCIL PAGE

The Baltimore County Council is voting on a bill Monday evening that aims to protect tenants from eviction during the pandemic. The bill consists of regulations on sudden residential rent increases.

Second District Councilman Izzy Patoka, the bill’s sponsor, presented the bill at a county council work session last week.

“The issue I'm bringing forward today.relates to an economic and health crisis,” he said at the session. 

Rachel Baye / WYPR

The first of two statewide ballot questions this year could create a significant shift in power in Annapolis by allowing the General Assembly to move money around within the governor’s proposed budget. The legislature debated the proposed amendment to the state constitution for more than two decades before sending it to voters this year.

@GOVLARRYHOGAN/TWITTER

Gov. Larry Hogan announced in a news conference Thursday that he is lifting COVID-19 restrictions on nursing homes and child care centers as Maryland’s COVID-19 positivity rate continues to drop.

In addition, he said Maryland reported zero coronavirus deaths that day "for the first time in 187 days since March 28."

Hogan said that Maryland nursing homes may now resume indoor visitations. This applies to all nursing homes that are not experiencing a current outbreak and haven’t had new positive cases in the last 14 days. 

John Lee / WYPR

In Baltimore County, some voters are not taking a chance on long Election Day lines. Hundreds have already voted this week by taking their ballots to drop boxes.  

Patrick Semansky / AP

Members of the Maryland House of Delegates are considering at least a dozen changes to the laws governing police, from rules about the use of lethal force to who is responsible for investigating accusations of misconduct. During a meeting Thursday, support for those changes appeared to break down along party lines, with Republicans resisting some of the bigger shifts from the status quo.

CREDIT AP/PATRICK SEMANSKY

Baltimore City is applying for $2 million of rental assistance from the state tomorrow in the form of Community Development Block Grant Funds. 

City officials estimate that the $2 million would help about 333 households. But Valerie Piper, a city consultant for eviction prevention, acknowledged that nearly 10,000 households are in need. 

She said the state has about $16 million of block grant funds. 

@GovLarryHogan/Twitter

Gov. Larry Hogan has announced that starting Thursday, indoor visitation may begin in nursing homes that are not experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks or positive cases. 

In addition, Maryland child care facilities will now be operating at full capacity. Since July, centers allowed no more than 15 individuals per room. 

Now facilities may accommodate up to 20 three-year-olds and four-year-olds, or 30 school age children per room. 

Emily Sullivan/WYPR

The Baltimore Teachers’ Union staged a die-in protest at school headquarters Wednesday night, demanding that classes remain online through 2020. More than 50 teachers and parents lay on the ground to show they, or someone they know, have conditions such as asthma or diabetes that could make them more susceptible to COVID-19 .

The protest came as city school leaders try to decide what where the rest of the fall semester will be held. School officials announced in July that classes would be held online through at least mid-October. 

“We are here because we love kids and we're here because we love our educators,” said Franca Muller Paz, a teacher at Baltimore City College High School. “We will not put them on the line before it is time.”

SARAH Y. KIM/WYPR

BGE has reported its customers have lost more than $25,000 to utility scammers this past month and that the company has received nearly 1,500 scam complaints. 

BGE Senior Vice President Tamla Olivier says this marks a significant increase in scam reports.  

“These scammers have gotten so sophisticated when you look at your caller ID, it will literally say Baltimore Gas and Electric,” Olivier said. 

SCREENSHOT VIA CHARM TV FACEBOOK PAGE

Baltimore Mayor Jack Young announced a $2 million grant fund for small businesses today. The fund aims to help businesses reopen safely and recover from the pandemic.

“Baltimore small businesses have been agile in their response to COVID-19. And we must not relent our efforts to assist our small businesses during this time,” Young said. 

Eli Pousson/Baltimore Heritage via Flickr


 A Baltimore City Council bill to officially change the name of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples' Day throughout the city, at a time where the Italian explorer’s legacy is under renewed scrutiny amid a massive reckoning over racial injustice.

It’s the latest public re-examination of Christopher Columbus in Baltimore. A group of protesters tore down a Columbus statue near the Inner Harbor on the 4th of July and Councilman Ryan Dorsey has introduced a bill currently making its way through City Hall to rename another Columbus monument in the city.

Baltimore County

The Baltimore County Council is poised to vote on legislation next week that would reform the county police department.

It was nearly two months ago that the council shelved police reform legislation.

Tuesday night, the council held a hearing on a reworked proposal that in its current form has the support of a majority of council members. But possible last minute changes to the bill could make the final vote uncertain.

WYPR’s John Lee listened in on the hearing and joined Morning Edition host Nathan Sterner to talk about it.

SARAH Y. KIM/WYPR

Maryland residents who are behind on their utility bills will start getting shut-off notices Oct. 1. And a moratorium on shut offs ends Nov. 15.

Tamla Olivier, BGE’s senior vice president and chief customer officer, urged customers who are behind on their bills to get help.

“Do not wait until you're at risk of being disconnected. We are saying call today, right now,” she said. “We can’t help if you don’t call us.”

Screenshot via Brandon For Baltimore Facebook page

Baltimore’s three Democratic nominees for citywide office came together Tuesday morning to urge voters to elect their party’s presidential nominee, Joe Biden, in a show of unity that was lacking in 2016 when then Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton appeared to be on the way to victory. 

“This election is about the fabric of democracy and whether our country can come back from the last four years of embarrassment to elect people who can help us,” City Council President Brandon Scott said at a news conference.

 

PUBLIC DOMAIN

Patients who’ve survived COVID-19 may be at greater risk of developing long term heart problems. 

A recently published paper in the medical journal JAMA Cardiology featured a study where 78 of 100 subjects who had recovered from COVID-19 developed cardiac abnormalities. Many of them had no heart conditions before contracting the virus.

AP Photo/Julio Cortez

Maryland’s State Board of Elections began sending about 800,000 mail-in ballots to voters over the weekend.

To speed up the delivery process, out-of-state vendors shipped large batches of ballots to Maryland, where they subsequently entered the local mail stream as first-class mail.

“The quicker you can get into the mail stream in Maryland, the quicker people will get them,” Patrick J. Hogan, Vice Chair of the Maryland Board of Elections, said at a board meeting last Thursday. 

Tmaximumge/Public Domain

State health surveyors inspect and fine facilities who do not meet COVID-19 regulations, including testing. But in Maryland, the surveyors themselves are not required to be tested. 

Dr. Joseph DeMattos Jr, president of the Health Facilities Association of Maryland, said state surveyors visit multiple nursing homes without getting tested. DeMattos said this increases the risk of spreading COVID-19. 

“We have a responsibility as leaders in health care to test our state health inspectors for coronavirus regularly,” DeMattos said. 

Dominique Maria Bonessi

Law enforcement officials and some of the police’s most fervent critics agreed during a four-hour state Senate hearing Thursday that the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights needs to be changed. They disagreed, however,  on the scope of the change.

 

The controversial Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights, or LEOBR, governs police internal investigations and discipline. Critics say it gives too much protection to police who violate rules or even the law. 

John Lee

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewsi said Governor Hogan is not communicating with local leaders. Olszewski said that is a missed opportunity for the governor to hear from county executives before making COVID-related decisions, like what to reopen and with what restrictions.

WYPR’s John Lee talked with Olszewski about that, as well as reopening schools and the county’s overall response to the pandemic, now in its seventh month. He joined Morning Edition host Nathan Sterner to talk about what Olszewski had to say.

Rachel Baye/WYPR

Gov. Larry Hogan has announced those most vulnerable to getting COVID-19 would be the first in Maryland to get vaccines when they become available.

He said Thursday morning they include nursing home staff and residents, senior day care workers and public safety officials. 

CREDIT DREW MORRIS/FLICKR


  Baltimore City students joined peers in Philadelphia, Detroit and Baton Rouge to call on Comcast to close the digital divide by providing free internet access for all students. The company’s Internet Essentials program isn’t fast or cheap enough to allow all students to learn remotely online, they said at a Wednesday news conference.  

Kimberly Vasquez, a senior at Baltimore City College High School, said her school year hasn’t been marked with the usual milestones but by internet connections that lag and drop, especially when multiple people in the same household are online.

WYPR

  


  Baltimore’s chief solicitor will recommend the city sever a lucrative contract with a company whose founder, J.P. Grant, illegally funneled $170,000 to disgraced former mayor Catherine Pugh. 

The recommendation comes after an investigation by the city Inspector General found that Grant’s firm, Grant Capital Management, violated campaign finance law and should not have been considered for the contract.

Flickr

Nearly 85% of Baltimore County educators surveyed by the teachers union this week said they are anxious or very anxious about returning to classrooms before January.

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