County Health Officers Brief Joint COVID-19 Workgroup

2020-05-20 12_36_23-May 20, 2020 Meeting of the Joint COVID-19 Legislative Workgroup - YouTubeLegislative COVID Workgroup briefed by Health Officers from Anne Arundel, Howard, and Montgomery Counties on local response efforts and needs. 

This week’s Joint COVID-19 Response Legislative Workgroup meeting centered on briefings by Anne Arundel County Health Officer Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman, Montgomery County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles, and Howard County Health Officer Dr. Maura Rossman.

The county health officers have been working hard throughout the crisis to ensure public health needs are addressed and that state and local executive orders are executed and enforced. While the panelists spoke about work in their specific counties, common topics included efforts to increase testing availability and supplies, bolstering contact tracing, working with regional partners, the importance of public-private and nonprofit partnerships, and applying health in all policy practices and a racial equity lens approach to their work.

In regards to questions about the reopening process and coordination with the state, the health officers expressed some frustration at the time crunch between learning about the Governor’s executive orders and having to react to them as well as how the piecemeal approach to reopening often has them on the defensive of having to explain why some counties are remaining more restrictive as allowed by the reopening order. Despite this, the health officers did assure workgroup members that they have a good relationship with the Department of Health’s Deputy Secretary Fran Phillips and her team and frequently talk with them as well as their health officer counterparts each week.

Workgroup members pointed out how the differences in state and local reopening processes have led to much public confusion about where things stand. While acknowledging the difficulties of messaging, the health officers stressed that these decisions and subsequent actions are data-driven and involve collaboration with a number of different agencies and stakeholders. Ultimately they shared there are pros and cons to issuing a statewide standard versus the current process involving local deference, but what is important is that everyone is working to follow the data and respond to the needs of their jurisdictions.

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 and a recording may be found on YouTube.

Prior coverage from Conduit Street:

Joint COVID-19 Workgroup Digs Into Data Models, Next Steps

County Executives Brief COVID-19 Legislative Workgroup