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Effects of Coronavirus In Baltimore County Spelled Out In Town Hall

John Lee

Almost every business in Baltimore County is being affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Also, county students will get pass or fail grades  and people are throwing out more trash.

At Thursday night’s virtual town hall, officials laid out how COVID-19 is impacting Maryland’s third largest county.

County residents were invited to click on a link to join the streaming town hall meeting. Watching the stream, you could see Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski, with key members of his administration dialing in remotely. For nearly 90 minutes, they made presentations and fielded around two dozen questions from people who had emailed them in advance or sent a text during the town hall.

Baltimore County Economic Development Director Will Anderson said according to a survey his office conducted, 96 percent of businesses in the county are being affected. Anderson said 13,000 county residents have filed for unemployment and he urged anyone who has lost a job to file, even if you didn’t qualify before.

Anderson said, “If you’re self-employed, if you’re an independent or gig worker, these are all covered now under unemployment.”

Anderson said starting Friday, small businesses and non-profits can apply to the Paycheck Protection Program for low interest loans. A portion of the loans will be forgiven if the businesses meet certain conditions and use the money to pay employees.

Baltimore County School Superintendent Darryl Williams said that when classes resume on Monday, students from the third grade up will have laptops or Chromebooks. Teachers will have office hours when students can reach them, and classes will meet weekly on line.

K-2 students will have packets.

The third marking period was supposed to end Friday. It will be combined with the fourth marking period.

In a letter sent by principals to parents on Friday, they were told county students will receive a pass or fail grade in a course "based on their participation and progress through remote learning."

Williams added proms are canceled but they still have time to try to figure out something about graduation. The first of those is scheduled for May 30.

No surprise, we’re all staying home so we are throwing out more trash, according to Public Works Director Steve Walsh. He said curbside trash and recycling pickup will continue as always. However, yard waste pickup that was supposed to start two days ago has been suspended. That’s so the crews can deal with all of that trash. Walsh suggested that you compost, and let your grass clippings lie.

“Folks really don’t need to bag their grass clippings,” Walsh said.  “And it’s actually better for the environment to let the grass clippings stay.”

On Monday, Governor Larry Hogan ordered everyone to stay home unless they have a good reason to be out, like if you’re going to the grocery store or you have what is considered an essential job.

Baltimore County Police Chief Melissa Hyatt said as long as you are abiding by the governor’s order, you are good to go.

“However, if you decide to take a ride for no other reason than to be out and about and should get pulled over for some other traffic violation or involved in a crash, this added offense of not abiding by the order could be added to your traffic violation,” Hyatt said.

People who live in walking distance from a county park or trail can still go to one. Roslyn Johnson, the county parks and recreation director, said they will remain open, but all facilities in the park like playgrounds, bathrooms, water fountains and courts are off limits.

“They’re closed because we cannot guarantee these surfaces are free from the COVID virus,” Johnson said.

County residents have a lot of questions. Olszewski said his staff has responded to nearly four thousand calls that have come in on the county’s COVID-19 hotline.

“We have lost thousands to COVID-19 already including two Baltimore County residents, Olszewski said. "And we know that number will continue to grow exponentially.”

Baltimore County’s COVID-19 hotline is 410-887-3816

John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County.
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