By: David M. Higgins II, Publisher

UPDATE 5/27/2020 @ 5 p.m.-

Annapolis, MD- At a 5 p.m. press conference Governor Larry Hogan announced that Maryland was entering the final stage of Phase One of the Roadmap to Recovery. He stated that Maryland has now reached the level of 10,000 COVID-19 tests a day, and is opening two more testing sites, one in P.G. County.

Effective Friday, May 29, 2020, at 5 p.m., restaurants, social clubs, and organizations may begin allowing outside dining. They must follow strict health measures and physical distancing. Along with no more than six people at a table.

Also effective are youth sports and day camps, outdoor pools, and drive-in movie theaters. All of these must follow strict guidelines and maximum occupants. Places such as Maryland International Raceway and Potomac Speedway are also allowing racing this weekend but without spectators.

Below are two documents from the State for Youth Sports and Restaurants /Bars

This is a developing story, and we will continue to update as more information is released from the state and on the County Levels for SOMD.

UPDATE 5/14/2020: Charles, PG, and Montgomery Counties have opted to remain under the “Stay at Home Order’ for the time being. You can read more here: Two SoMD counties plan to open, while one waits

Annapolis, Md- Forty-three days after Maryland Governor Larry Hogan signed a “Stay at Home Order” for the state, he lifted it effective Friday, May 15, 2020, at 5:00 p.m. EST. The State now moves to a “Safer at Home” Health Advisory.

Retail stores may reopen with 50% capacity, all manufacturing may resume, salons, and barbershop may reopen at 50% capacity with an appointment. Indoor religious services may resume with 50% capacity. The Governor strongly encourages outdoor services. We will bring a more comprehensive list when released. The Governor states that these businesses need to adhere to proper health procedures and social distancing measures such as six-feet spacing, and wearing of masks.

For forty-three days Marylanders have been restricted to their homes, only to leave for “essential” reasons. Workers have had their jobs, and livelihoods, classified as “essential and non-essential”.

Children have had in-school instruction canceled and are being taught at home through distance learning. This will continue from the remainder of the 2019/20 school year, and State Education Superintendent says schooling going forward will look different. “Essential” working parents having to juggle full-time(and often overtime) jobs while homeschooling. The Class of 2020 having to participate in “virtual” graduations, while some get to walk across the stage with appropriate social distancing guidelines. Often leaving out stepparents who helped raise them due to those guidelines.

Thousands and thousands of Marylanders were without pay due to the closing of “non-essential” businesses. The Federal and State Government offered more money, but also loosened guidelines to allow self-employed and freelance/gig workers to apply. Though it hasn’t helped much as the system designed to apply crashed multiple times. When users signed in online to the Beacon One-Stop online application portal, instead of being greeted with instructions on how to apply, they were greeted with this message, “Despite rigorous testing of our new BEACON One-Stop application, the vendor we partnered with is experiencing temporary issues with the system due to the volume of claimants accessing the site simultaneously. The outside vendor is working hard to resolve the issues. Please check our website later this morning for updates.”

On the first Friday of availability, Hogan stated 15,000 Marylanders applied, but 35,000 couldn’t get in.

“I’m very frustrated,” the governor said of the launch. Hogan said he was happy the site had rolled out but he was disappointed that the debut had so many glitches.

“We’re gonna hold their feet to the fire to make sure they get all the glitches worked out,” he said of the outside vendor who helped launch the site, whom he did not name.

Once the system was up and ready to work again, users were greeted with wait numbers. One user Andy Palka was given the number 164,346… that’s how many applicants were before him. He was told he “just had to wait his turn.”

Jenni Mahoney, a former resident of Maryland having to file in Maryland said,” The first week under the original system I was able to file immediately. Under the Beacon site the following week, I started on Sunday, I tried to go on 4 times the first I went on and it showed that I was claiming for a week 2-3-2020,knowing this was not correct I logged out and tried again. I went back on and was given messages that I was number 267,835 and they were on 73,568.., I was instructed to push an email button and they would notify me when my turn was near. The messages three times never came ,the fourth one was done at 1:30 pm and I woke up the next morning to see I had an email message ( 4:32 AM ) that my turn was in 10 minutes. then a message at 4:42 am that said my time had expired. I tried several times Monday and Tuesday. I tried calling and logging on Wednesday as well. At 8:32 am Thursday I went on the site It showed I had 75,000 plus people ahead of me,but less then a minute wait time. I waited and watched the bar scroll across the screen and I was finally able to log on.”

Then there was the whole debacle of “Essential Childcare Workers” being paid. Multiple daycares and child facilities have been waiting for weeks for repayment by the State.

Jen Carroll, an “essential” childcare provider in Mechanicsville, MD told us she is waiting for a total of 7 weeks for repayment. She received a total of $7,600(2 weeks) and is still due $9,600.

“This has been very stressful for me, my family, and mychildcareparents. The lies and miscommunication from top officials have been incredibly discouraging… We have done everything asked by the state officials to continue to operate in a safe manner for all involved and to have the lack of respect given in this time is just unacceptable. As of May 1st, it had been 5 weeks with no income. My bills and essentials needed to operate my business haven’t stopped and with no income, it’s making it even harder to remain optimistic that I can continue to stay open… This is also another reason as I will not acceptChildcareVouchers due to the state and MSDE not coming through on there end. I think MSDE and the state could and should do a lot better than they are!” she says

The Federal Government in this time provided stimulus checks and loans to the country at a tune of $2.2 Trillion dollars. Americans received $1200 for singles, $2400 for married and $500 for each child. It was phased out beginning with earners of $99,000 a year.

The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives is proposing another round of stimulus, this time costing an estimated $3 Trillion dollars.

I asked a few Southern Maryland residents their opinion of the Governor reopening:

“Thrilled. I’m tired of all of this. It’s ridiculous. Honestly, the government and the BOE should have had a plan already in place for an event like this, not something they are making up as they go.”

Suzzi Copeland of Great Mills

” Makes me anxious, and as much as I look forward to being able to do more than just face time with family or friends, going forward will never be the same, at least not for me. I’ll always have what’s happened in the back of my mind. I miss family and friends and listening to live So. Md music! I won’t hide at home but I surely won’t be frequenting any crowded indoor venues any time soon. Unsettling as it is, I’ll be ever mindful of what I choose to do or where I go could very well have an impact on those who mean the most. I believe for me, just getting to “a new normal” will be enough to work on for a while. Here’s hoping we can all get through Phase 1 with no hiccups!”

Trish Bargas of Owings, MD

” I’m feeling a strange mix of excitement, anticipation, and some apprehension of the unknown. I’ve tried to maintain a realistic expectation during this time of uncertainty. Yes, I’m excited but a small part of me worries about the possibility of a new shelter in place if we enter phases prematurely. The thought that this heightened anxiety and social distancing could become our new normal, has crossed my mind. But I’ll continue to consider the well being of our community as a while when making personal decisions. It’s such a difficult time for all. Can we justify risking anyone’s health to try to resuscitate our economy? Can we justify the continued blow to our economy and restrictions on our freedoms or do we provide the ability for each person to make their own decision at the risk of jeopardizing those most vulnerable? I think most of us have asked ourselves these questions and honestly, my answers have changed throughout depending on what information was being provided. I’ll remain cautiously optimistic and take an active approach in advocating for what I believe is best for keeping me and my family healthy and safe.”

Jamie Vlahos

Stage One of Governor Hogan’s “Road Map to Recovery” begins with the lifting of the “Stay at Home Order”. It includes:

a. Small shops and certain small businesses
b. Curbside pickup and drop-off for businesses
c. Elective medical and dental procedures at ambulatory, outpatient, and
medical offices
d. Limited attendance outdoor religious gatherings
e. Recreational boating, fishing, golf, tennis, hiking, and hunting
f. Car washes
g. Limited outdoor gym and fitness classes
h. Outdoor work with appropriate distancing measures
i. Some personal services

These changes may not happen all at once depending on where the state is at with illnesses, and hospitalizations.

Asked how she will handle going out in public more, Bargas says,” I’ll still continue to do my part, wear the mask in public and workplace, sanitizer in the car, leave shoes at the door etc. I realize there there’s still too much unknown to date. There’s also the possibility 5/15 may be too soon, and if so then we’ve all taken 20 steps backwards. I’ve been telecommuting from home since 3/30. I made it clear to my manager and owner I would be following Gov. Hogan’s timeline. I’m not willing to take chances with an office full of co-workers who aren’t as stringent as I may be.”

Valhos echoed the same sentiments,” I will continue to practice increased precautions as we start to make our way back into our old routines. I’ve always understood the power of proper hand washing techniques and it’s ability to help stop the transmission of viruses so that aspect of my life will not change. Above and beyond that, I’ll continue sanitation of items from outside the home and just a general heightened sense of awareness when it comes to voluntary interactions with others in the community. As we try to navigate the beginning of this first phase, there are so many things to consider. Even in the simpler areas of life such as interacting with co-workers, friends, and neighbors. Handshakes played such a big part of daily business and hugging a friend as a greeting or goodbye was part of my pre Covid-19 routine. Our family will be having conversations about how we plan to have a united front on the way we approach re-entering our work or social schedules. I feel it’s important to include our children so we all understand what our new normal will be.”

Copeland said,” Well, I always have hand sanitizer with me because I deal with kids, and kids are gross(haha), but I will not stand close to people in lines as before, or in the aisles”

It is not known how long we will stay in Phase 1 before we move to Phase two, a much longer recovery period according to Hogan. What is known is that some counties may still restrict activities and businesses depending on their numbers.

This is a developing story and we will update as the Governor releases more documents and information regarding the status of certain things in the state. The County Governments will also be releasing information pertaining to their specific locations.

David M. Higgins II, Publisher/Editor

David M. Higgins was born in Baltimore and grew up in Southern Maryland. He has had a passion for journalism since high school. After spending many years in the Hospitality Industry he began working in...