Maryland ranks near the bottom among states in terms of the pace of its recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, according to a recent study.

TheWalletHubstudy was released on Tuesday. It said that Maryland is the state with the 10th slowest recovery from COVID-19. South Dakota has the fastest recovery of any state and Michigan has the slowest recovery of any state. Minnesota, West Virginia, Rhode Island, Washington, D.C., Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey are the other states/jurisdictions that have slower recoveries than Maryland.

WalletHub based its findings on three criteria: “COVID health,” “leisure and travel,” and “economy and labor market.” The criteria were assessed across 22 different metrics. Each metric was ranked on a scale of 0-100 points. WalletHub used data compiled by U.S. government agencies such as the Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Centers for Disease Control, and the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

So why is Maryland’s recovery from the pandemic lagging behind that of most other states?

“When I saw the report, my initial reaction was that states that had the least-restrictive overall policies toward the pandemic had the fastest economic recovery,” Frederick County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Rick Weldon told MarylandReporter.com.

Weldon added: “Also, the top 10-15% also have lower populations overall or very low density, highly spread populations. It seems to follow logically that states with less-restrictive mask-wearing and distancing guidance would see their economies rise at a faster, more consistent pace. When you add in the differences between the policies/guidance issued by the various gubernatorial administrations, the higher profile and consistent the COVID messaging, the slower the rate of economic recovery.”

Washington County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Paul Frey said there are a host of issues that explain why Maryland’s recovery is slow in comparison to that other states, such as a common hesitancy to return to the workplace.

“While Maryland is currently experiencing the 10thslowest recovery from COVID-19, there is a grouping of about ten states, from 42 to 33, that are in similar circumstances, with very similar numbers. With that said, there are a number of issues impacting the recovery and elevated unemployment rates. This includes the fact that many parents, who could be back in the workforce, are staying home with their school-aged children, while the local school systems are operating in a virtual manner. There are still a fair number of employees that are choosing to stay out of the workforce because they are receiving unemployment benefits that exceed what they were making at their former job. This will likely remain an issue until the federal unemployment benefits end in September. Lastly, even though they have received their vaccine, some people are still not comfortable going out in public, for fear of being exposed to COVID.”

Frey said the key to economic recovery lies in empowering the private sector.

“The best way to strengthen the economy is to let the private sector, in a responsible manner, fully open and serve their customers in a safe manner. Government cannot continue to try to solve these problems in a free-market economy, long term, by constantly infusing money that will need to be repaid, likely through higher taxes. A fully operating economy will strengthen the tax base, allowing the private sector to fund the economic recovery.”

Maryland Retailers Association President Cailey Locklair said the state’s economic prospects should continue to improve as more and more people become vaccinated.

“The article and study hit the nail on the head. Increased vaccines and distribution will increase consumer confidence and spending which in turn leads to more people getting back to work. There are continuing concerns from employers about finding employees which we believe should resolve as people become fully vaccinated. Maryland has administered almost 5 million doses as of today with 2.1 million people fully vaccinated. Out of a population of 6 million people, that is hopeful progress.”

There are 450,010 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maryland as of Tuesday morning, according to the state’s Department of Health, and 8,612 people in Maryland have died from the virus. The state’s positivity rate is at 3.82%, which is within CDC recommended guidelines for containment. Maryland has conducted nearly 9.8 million COVID-19 tests.

More than 2.1 million people in Maryland are fully vaccinated, which is about a third of the state’s total population. Maryland currently ranks 25 out of 50 among states with regard to vaccine administration, according to the CDC.

This article originally appeared on MarylandReporter.com on Tuesday, May 4, 2021.


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