Maryland’s law enforcement personnel have been diligent in making sure that the state’s residents are abiding by restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus.
Since the beginning of the pandemic in mid-March police have charged or arrested 132 Marylanders for COVID-related violations, according to recent data MarylandReporter.com obtained from the Maryland State Police. During that period police have responded to 4,657 calls for service and 41,920 compliance checks have been performed, according to the MSP.
The MSP said it does not have any details about the arrests. The agency’s data covers the period that ended on Friday, December 4, and represents COVID-related enforcement actions by all of Maryland’s police departments. The MSP did not issue any COVID-related charges or make any COVID-related arrests on the night before Thanksgiving.
MarylandReporter.com reached out to the Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, and Howard County police departments for information related to the possible number of charges and arrests in those jurisdictions as well as businesses that may have been fined or forced to shut down. A spokesperson for the Howard County Police Department said there have been no reported COVID-related charges or arrests in that county. Baltimore City provided a list of about a dozen businesses that were temporarily forced to close. The other jurisdictions were either unable to provide the requested information or did not respond by the deadline for this story.
MarylandReporter.com asked the state’s lawmakers to assess the MSP’s data.
“These numbers don’t surprise me,” Del. Brian Chisholm (R-Anne Arundel) said Monday.
Chisholm added: “I get 5 to 10 complaints a week from restaurant owners or small businesses about the Department of Health walking-in unannounced and just citing them for all kinds of various reasons. Many of them seem petty. Whether it’s a waitress they see tip his or her mask down, or they are just coming in and bullying some of these restaurant owners in regard to the number of people that are in there.”
Chisholm said most COVID-related charges and arrests are unnecessary.
“It’s just uncalled for because all of these rules are just so arbitrary, based on science that not everybody has agreed upon. So, any number over one is disappointing to me unless it’s an egregious offense.”
Sen. Johnny Ray Salling (R-Baltimore County) echoed similar sentiments.
“I’m shocked because there is so much more we can arrest people for. These COVID-related things can get out of hand. And I think they have gotten out of hand. I understand the culture that we have with COVID. But I don’t think there is a need to arrest anybody or to charge people for anything related to COVID. Warn them. Tell them to obey the executive orders. And then follow through.”
Sen. Will Smith (D-Montgomery) said more information is needed to properly assess the data.
“Are these parties or are these just kinds of casual gatherings in someone’s backyard? Are these restaurants and other establishments that are violating COVID protocols? Are they frivolous? I don’t know.”
But Smith did say it is “unfortunate” that the number of reported violations is so “high” and that is “probably a multitude of contributing factors” to the numbers.
There are 217,329 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maryland as of Monday morning, according to the state’s Department of Health, and 4,705 people in Maryland have died from the virus. The state’s positivity rate is at 7.89%, which is well above CDC recommended guidelines for containment. Maryland has conducted more than 4.7 million COVID-19 tests.