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Emergency declaration extended by Baltimore County Council

Baltimore County Health Officer Dr. Gregory Branch. Credit: John Lee
Baltimore County Health Officer Dr. Gregory Branch. Credit: John Lee

The Baltimore County Council voted 6-to-1 Monday night to extend the county’s state of emergency through February 7.

The county’s COVID positivity rate is at 31.5%, which is higher than the state’s rate of 26.87%.

Baltimore County Health Officer Dr. Gregory Branch told the council that St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson declared a crisis of care Monday. He added that there are 12 ICU beds available countywide and there aren’t enough ambulances to meet demand.

Branch said, “If you need emergency medical care for like a heart attack, pulmonary embolism, or a stroke or any other major illness, what I am going to say to you at this point now is God help you.”

Administration officials said the emergency declaration allows them to cut red tape and shave off the time it takes to enter into agreements with private ambulance companies and to order things like home COVID test kits and masks for the school system.

“It’s about the necessity of moving quickly,” County Administrative Officer Stacy Rodgers said. “We need products now.”

Recent votes by the county council on emergency declarations have been politically divided. But Monday night two of the three Republicans, David Marks and Wade Kach, joined the four Democrats in supporting it.

Marks said he opposed the declaration two previous times because the COVID metrics were lower. He said the metrics tell a compelling story.

“To go up six times above what you were in September is absolutely alarming,” Marks said.

Republican Todd Crandell was the one vote against the measure. He did not speak at Monday’s meeting but has consistently voted against authorizing a state of emergency, fearing it puts too much power in the hands of the county executive.

The county’s last state of emergency ended November 3. County Executive Johnny Olszewski declared an emergency again last week. Under the county charter he needs the county council’s approval to extend it beyond seven days.

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