The General Assembly’s Joint COVID-19 Response Legislative Workgroup held its third meeting this week and the first meeting live-streamed remotely via Zoom. The meeting included briefings from the Maryland Department of Health and the Maryland State Department of Education, as well as a panel of public health experts.
President Bill Ferguson opened with some remarks on the Governor’s recent emergency executive orders. And noted that all outstanding bills that passed both chambers during the session have been presented to the Governor who now has thirty days to decide whether to sign the bills, allow to go into effect without his signature, or to veto the bills. Speaker Adrienne Jones discussed the two telehealth bills that were signed into law by the Governor last week as well as news that the Governor will begin the release of COVID-19 racial data that was championed by Delegate Nick Mosby and other advocates.
The Public health experts panel featured Dr. Thomas Ingelsby and Dr. Joshua Sharfstein from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Ingelsby discussed measures taken in the state, the overall trajectory the state faces, and what needs to happen before restrictions can be eased. Sharfstein continued where Ingelsby left off by focusing on the importance of effective communication, thinking outside the box for engaging with and mobilizing partnerships aside from government, and the links between investment in disease control that would permit broader reopening. On that latter point, he related control and recovery efforts that will lead us back to normal to a dimmer switch that can be adapted as needed rather than a light switch that simply turns and off.
Maryland Department of Health Secretary Robert Neall gave an update on the latest state coronavirus data and stats, new testing sites, and equipment procurement. Including that 11,078 ventilators are available statewide ready for use with more on the way. Additional procurement of PPE, lab test chemicals, and sedatives that are used in conjunction with ventilation are also in the works.
State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon discussed progress on meals being served to children at sites across the state, securing childcare for essential personnel, and efforts being put in place to ensure successful distance learning for students now and what the future of education may look like given the circumstances.
The Joint COVID-19 Response Legislative Work Group is co-chaired by President Ferguson and Speaker Jones and includes 22 House and Senate members. Their charge is to monitor the effects COVID-19 in Maryland and to support the Governor and Department of Health, and advise the General Assembly on any actions they should be taking.
The meeting was streamed live on YouTube and a recording of Zoom meeting may be found on the General Assembly’s website where the meeting begins at the 32:44 minute mark.