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'Best weekend all year': Labor Day provides surprise and needed boost to restaurants, shops

Hannah Wellman and Helen Herman were not sure what to expect for the Labor Day weekend.

Wellman is one of the owners of the Corah’s Corner restaurant in St. Michaels. Herman is co-owner of The Blue Crab coffee shop and cafe also in St. Michaels.

And like many restauranteurs, shop owners and tourism-related businesses, they were not sure how the holiday weekend was going to go with COVID-19 and the cancellation of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum’s annual Labor Day Charity Boat Auction.

They were both more than pleasantly surprised.

“It’s been fantastic. The town has been so busy,” said Wellman, whose Talbot Street restaurant signed its lease two weeks before the pandemic started earlier this year.

“I think we were busier than anticipated,” said Wellman, who has also noticed support from local residents for local restaurants and shops. “I think more than ever people are trying to come together for the community.”

Herman said the Labor Day weekend resulted in the “best weekend all year” for the cafe she co-owns with her husband. “It seems like people are wanting to get out,” she said.

Herman has started to see more business from part-time residents who might have been cooped up in weekend homes because of the pandemic, as well as from some visitors getting out of big cities across the Chesapeake Bay where there have been more coronavirus cases, social unrest and stricter shutdown rules.

“It’s just a little bleak in the cities where there is nothing to do,” Herman said, pointing to security and protest dynamics impacting visits to Washington D.C.

Leah Bell was uncertain about the holiday weekend, but she also saw strong sales traffic at the St. Michaels shops she manages.

“I just didn’t know what to expect,” said Bell who is manager at Knotty Living and logistics manager for the American/Holiday and AH Home stores in St. Michaels.

Bell ran a 50% off sale on a number of items, which helped sales volume, but she said overall this Labor Day weekend is comparable to last year’s when COVID-19 and all the unrest of 2020 were not even imagined.

Bell noticed a lot of day-trippers looking to get out of still-shut down urban areas and visiting Talbot County this past weekend.

“I’m getting a lot of Montgomery County. I’m getting a lot of Baltimore, ‘PG’ (Prince George’s County) and Annapolis,” Bell said.

Destinations such as St. Michaels and Easton can offer options to visitors who want to get out but also might want to avoid the crowds in Washington D.C. or Ocean City. “People probably feel safer here than going to D.C.” Bell said.

St. Michaels requires masks inside stores and restaurants (when patrons are not at their tables). Masks are also required outside when visitors and residents cannot maintain social distancing. Bell said that was not a problem this past weekend.

“Everyone has been really good about wearing masks. People have been conforming to the social distancing,” Bell said.

Despite canceling the Charity Boat Auction, the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum still hosted more than 1,000 visitors over the long weekend, according to Shannon Mitchell, guest experience and events manager for CBMM.

“I’m thrilled to report that CBMM has seen a steady stream of guests coming through our doors and that our marina was fully booked during this three-day weekend,” Mitchell said.

Talbot County has had 497 COVID-19 cases and four deaths, according to the Maryland Department of Health. Those numbers provide favorable optics to more populous counties in and around D.C. and Baltimore where there are more COVID cases and stricter shutdown rules.

The start of the Labor Day weekend coincided with Gov. Larry Hogan’s new COVID-19 order allowing theaters and live entertainment venues to reopen and for churches and retail stores to increase their capacity.

Wellman, whose restaurant has 30 employees, hopes to see more day-trippers and other tourists continue the positive trend over the next several weekends as COVID-19 metrics improve and more people feel more comfortable venturing out. The coronavirus has been especially hard on travel, tourism and restaurants and their workers throughout Maryland and the U.S.

In Easton, Raegan Short, a bartender at the Washington Street Pub, also saw positive business trends for the long weekend.

“It’s been better than I expected. There’s been a lot of foot traffic,” Short said. She noticed a number of tourists this past weekend including from Wisconsin and Tennessee. She said outdoor seating options at Easton restaurants have also helped.

Short said many of her customers just want to be able to venture out more and want to start seeing life return to some sense of normalcy.

“I think a lot of people are just over it and want to back to normal life,” she said.

Substance use disorder affects millions in U.S.

More than 20 million people nationwide have a substance use disorder, including more than 900,000 adolescents.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, substance use disorders occur when the recurrent use of alcohol and/or drugs causes clinically significant impairment, including health problems, disability and failure to meet major responsibilities at work, school or home. SUD changes normal desires, priorities and behaviors, and interferes with the ability to work, go to school and have good relationships.

SUD is considered a mental illness and is defined as a “chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking, continued use despite harmful consequences and long-lasting changes in the brain,” according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Clinically, there are three subclassifications of SUD within the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual — mild, moderate and severe. Symptoms include impaired control, social impairment, risky use, tolerance and withdrawal, according to NIDA.

The diagnostic criteria include specific symptoms, like taking a substance in a larger amount than intended, craving a drug and using a drug despite persistent problems in relationships, among other things. Essentially, dependency happens when a person repeatedly uses drugs despite bad consequences. It is worth noting that physical dependence can happen quickly with many prescription opioids, causing some of these symptoms.

Drug use at a young age is an important indicator of potential SUD later in life. In 2018, about 2.4 million adolescents, aged 12-17, used alcohol for the first time, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. That averages about 6,500 kids each day starting to drink. That same survey found that more than 400,000 adolescents, aged 12-17, had a past alcohol l use disorder. And, 691,000 kids in that age bracket had a past year illicit drug use disorder.

SUD overall totaled an estimated 916,000 adolescents aged 11-17 across the nation in 2018. (Note: 2018 is the most current NSDUH). Slightly more — 946,000 — adolescents needed substance use treatment that same year. That number rose to 5.2 million in young adults ages 18-25, and to 15.1 million in people 26 and older.

Estimated medical costs associated with undiagnosed, untreated SUD are more than $120 billion each year, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Talbot Goes Purple is an educational and awareness prevention program that empowers our youth and our community to “Go Purple” as a sign of taking a stand against substance abuse. The purpose of the program is to promote the “new conversation” — one that includes prescription drugs, alcohol, marijuana and e-cigarettes. TGP focuses on educating students about the dangers of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs, and works toward preventing kids from beginning to use these substances in the first place.

An initiative from the Talbot County Sheriff’s Office and Tidewater Rotary, in partnership with Talbot County Public Schools, Saints Peter & Paul School and the Mid-Shore Community Foundation, Talbot Goes Purple empowers our youth and our community to “Go Purple” as a sign of taking a stand against substance abuse.

More information about Talbot Goes Purple is available at Find us on Facebook @TalbotGoesPurple or contact us at

Talbot Goes Purple is a component fund of the Mid-Shore Community Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization — donations to which are tax deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.

Virtual classes, visit from Gov. Hogan kick off new school year

It was the first day of school for many students across the Mid-Shore on Tuesday, Sept. 8 with many of those students learning virtually from home.

Talbot County Public Schools, Caroline County Public Schools and Dorchester County Public Schools all started their 2020-21 school years the day after Labor Day.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon were on the Shore for ‘First Day of School’ events. Hogan and Salmon toured and met with educators, district officials and students in Caroline County. They visited Denton Elementary School, Lockerman Middle School and North Caroline High School. The governor then toured the construction site of the new Greensboro Middle School. The new $24 million, 94,000-square-foot middle school is scheduled to open next year. The school is the first new school built in Caroline County in 40 years.

Hogan and Salmon participated in some Zoom classes during their visit to Denton Elementary. Most students at Caroline County schools are attending classes virtually though the district has phased plans for in-school instruction for students who might lack internet access at home as well as for specific student populations who learn best in-person.

The governor also met with the Caroline County Board of Education and Caroline County Superintendent of Schools Patty Saelens. Caroline County is one of 16 jurisdictions in the state with plans for at least some in-person instruction this school year, according to the governor’s office.

“Nothing is more important than safely getting our kids back into classrooms, and into healthy and supportive learning environments, particularly our students with special needs,” Hogan said in a statement. “I want to commend Superintendent Saelens, and all of the administrators, teachers, and staff for their tireless commitment to their students while taking every possible precaution to safeguard their health. What we saw today was truly inspiring, and I look forward to visiting more schools in the weeks ahead.”

Talbot County Public Schools also started the new school year tuesday with remote learning for all students. TCPS students will then be brought back into classroom settings via a phased plan starting next week. Talbot will also continue free meals for students through the month of September, according to Superintendent Kelly Griffith. Talbot schools are also offering technology tutorials for parents with children learning virtually. There are also information technology help desks at seven TCPS schools.

Dorchester County Public Schools also opened Tuesday with online learning for students. The district has distributed more than 4,000 new devices to tablets and devices to help students connect virtually to schools and teachers, according to DCPS Superintendent Dave Bromwell. “We are calling this first week unofficially our virtual orientation week for obvious reasons,” Bromwell said in a video announcement to parents and students. He asked for patience as the school works through technology challenges with the reopening.

Bromwell said Dorchester schools purchased 700 hotspots to help communities with connectivity problems. Those internet hotspots are still being deployed and activated. Bromwell said students will not be penalized for missing work or missing virtual attendance because of connectivity issues. DCPS will also start bringing some students back for in-person instruction on Sept. 15.

Executive Editor Mike Sunnucks contributed to this story.