COVID-19 cases are surging in Maryland and across the country. The Maryland Department of Health regularly updates its data in order to keep Marylanders informed about trends in cases, hospitalizations, and other metrics. It is abundantly clear that we must remain vigilant in following federal, state, local, and CDC guidance. We must continue to work together to do the things necessary to slow the spread in order to keep Maryland open for business and on the road to recovery.
Each Friday, the Maryland Chamber will bring you the top five news stories from the intersection of business and government. Here are this week’s top five stories.
Following the results of the 2020 election cycle, Congress returned to Washington with COVID-19 relief still on the docket of items needing to be addressed before the end of the year. Other top agenda items include avoiding another government shutdown and approving judicial nominations.
The primary obstacle between the two chambers had been another round of aid to state and local governments. However, on Wednesday a $908 billion measure emerged from a group of bipartisan senators, splitting the difference between the House Democrat plan and the Senate Republican plan. This new measure includes a $300 per week unemployment benefit, $160 billion in aid to state and local governments, additional funding for the PPP program, and liability protections for businesses and other organizations who have reopened during the pandemic.
Read more here.
In his November 23rd letter to the Biden transition team, Governor Hogan laid out his priorities for the state by urging the president-elect to prioritize a new stimulus relief package for state and local governments and small businesses.
“My first priority for the citizens of Maryland continues to be a Phase 4 COVID-19 relief package that includes robust and direct stabilization funding for state and local governments,” wrote Governor Hogan. “States are already fighting an uphill battle to rebuild our economies and maintain essential services in education, health care, emergency operations, and public safety.”
His other priorities include infrastructure funding and support for Chesapeake Bay Restoration. You can read his full letter here.
In a Tuesday press conference, Governor Hogan said that Maryland’s first batch of vaccines will only cover about half of the state’s front-line health-care workers. The first supply of 155,000 vaccines are coming from the companies Moderna and Pfizer. In the state’s October plan submitted to the federal government, Maryland health officials had planned on a two-phase vaccine approach, with the first phase providing vaccines to health-care workers and the state’s most vulnerable populations, like those residing in nursing homes. The second phase of the plan would include vaccines for the general public. The first vaccines that are coming to Maryland will require two doses, but it is unclear if that 155,000 number is inclusive of the two doses or not.
Read more here.
Contact tracing is a critical tool used to decrease the spread of infectious disease. It has been used effectively during other public health emergencies and is important to help control the spread of COVID-19. Contact tracing is simply the process of identifying people who may have come into close contact with an individual who is ill with COVID-19 and letting them know they may have been infected. In November, Maryland rolled out a COVID-19 contact tracing app and the Maryland Department of Health is asking residents to opt-in for an automatic alert if they may have been exposed to someone with the virus. The state is aiming to use the voluntary MD COVID Alert app as a supplement to conventional contact tracing.
Users who enable the app will get a notification if they came in close contact with someone who eventually is diagnosed with coronavirus. The notification will list the approximate date of exposure, but no personal information. MD COVID Alert works using Bluetooth technology and recording what other phone users have been near recently but won’t track your location.
Android users must download the free app and iPhone users can agree to join in their settings. You can learn more and view the state’s contact tracing data by visiting their website.
On Wednesday, the three-member Board of Public Works unanimously approved the permit for a natural gas pipeline project that would provide natural gas to Somerset County.
The pipeline project will bring much-needed natural gas to key institutions in Somerset County, primarily the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and the Eastern Correctional Institution and attract more businesses to the area.
Currently, Somerset County is one of only three Maryland counties whose residents do not have access to natural gas as an energy source. The switch to natural gas will allow anchor institutions like UMES and the Eastern Correctional Institution to switch away from other methods of energy generation like oil and burning wood chips.
While the approval of this permit was a major step for the start of this project, the Board of Public Works will still need to consider the wetlands permit for the second portion of the project at a future date.
Read more here.
Friday, December 7, 2020
Wearing a mask in public lets us live life more safely. And it keeps you and everyone around you better protected from coronavirus. The more we mask together, the faster we get back to enjoying life…together. So, just carry on, masks on, Maryland.