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In Pandemic's 'Second Wave,' Businesses To Stay Open, State Health Secretary Suggests

A CG image of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 (CDC)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
A CG image of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 (CDC)

Public health experts have said to expect a “second wave” of COVID-19 cases as soon as the late summer or early fall. When the new surge arrives, Maryland officials may not force businesses to close again.


Speaking with a subcommittee of the state Senate Budget and Taxation Committee via Zoom on Thursday, Health Secretary Robert Neall said his department is preparing for a new surge in COVID-19 cases. He said this time, there will be a new challenge.


"We had to shut down the economy during the first wave. The second wave, we're going to have to coexist economically with this pandemic,” Neall said. “And that means that all of our social distancing, our masking, our hand washing and the care that people take for one another is going to make the difference, so that we can fight the pandemic but have an economy that's functional at the same time."


Neall said the state is in good shape to face the surge. 


Extra hospital beds the state added this spring will help the state withstand an increase in hospitalizations, he said, without having to cancel non-urgent medical procedures, as Gov. Larry Hogan did in March.


“The second wave, while concerning to me, it won't be as bad operationally because we started from a standing start with empty warehouses and just what we had on hand,” Neall said. “If we go into a recurrence of this at the end of the year, we will have our warehouses full.”


Neall estimated the state has about a year’s supply of personal protective equipment and has nearly 4,000 ventilators either on hand or on the way. 

When asked whether Hogan intends to allow businesses to stay open during a second wave of COVID-19 cases, spokesman for the governor Mike Ricci said, “The governor's position is the virus is still with us now, and will be for some time, so we need to be as vigilant as possible to help lessen the prospect of future outbreaks, whether it's getting tested, wearing a mask, or practicing physical distancing.” 

Rachel Baye is a senior reporter and editor in WYPR's newsroom. @RachelBaye
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