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Politically split Baltimore County Council again extends state of emergency

Lauren Watley, Baltimore County Government
Baltimore County Council Credit: Baltimore County

For the second time in a month, the Baltimore County Council split down party lines and voted Monday night to extend the county’s state of emergency to continue its response to COVID-19.

The vote was 4-3, with the Democratic majority voting for it. Democratic Councilwoman Cathy Bevins lamented that COVID has become political on the county council.

“We always tell people politics are not local,” Bevins said. “We do the best that’s for our communities and I would like to think that this vote would be no different.”

The Republican council members took issue with Bevins’ take on the vote.

“I can assure you my decision is not political,” Republican Wade Kach told Bevins after the vote.

Republican Councilman Todd Crandell, who has consistently voted against the state of emergency, questioned why it is needed and warned it could erode basic freedoms.

“We’re legislating something that we don’t need to put power in the hands of an executive branch that doesn’t need it,” Crandell said.

Bevins challenged him on that.

“What freedoms are being taken away from you or me or anyone else by having the state of emergency?”

Baltimore County Health Officer Doctor Gregory Branch told the council the state of emergency allows him to spend money more quickly. That will help as they gear up to give booster shots.

“I know that the state of emergency will be very, very helpful as we’re looking at all of those contracts that we’re going to have to do and be able to get through the procurement process,” Branch said.

Republican council members and members of the public speaking at the meeting questioned why the state of emergency is necessary when COVID rates are declining.

Republican Councilman David Marks noted that the current positivity rate in Baltimore County is around 3.8%.

“The trends nationwide, my understanding, are all very promising,” Marks said.

Dr. Branch said people are still getting sick and dying in the county.

“Our hospitalizations have now in the past week increased by 25%.”

Monday’s vote means the state of emergency will remain in effect until November 3.

John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County. @JohnWesleyLee2
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