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First Night Talbot goes virtual to ring in the New Year

EASTON — 2020 was full of live streams and Zoom calls, and the year will end with more virtual events, too.

The 27-year-old First Night Talbot will ring in the New Year with a filmed performance available to view on Discover Easton’s Youtube or Facebook page, and at: www.firstnighttalbot.org.

While it might be virtual, the Dec. 31 celebration will continue the musical and artsy performance traditions that First Night Talbot is known for, with several musicians and performers lined up for the event.

“We are not only happy that we are able to continue the First Night Talbot tradition this year, but we are really excited to introduce a new, digital format and hopefully reach a larger audience,” said Discover Easton’s Executive Director Ross Benincasa. “We hope this remote experience will give our community a bit of joy as they connect with some of our local artists from their home.”

Performers will play throughout the evening, and Discover Easton is encouraging residents to tune in before 7 p.m. to see fire breather and performer Cascading Carlos, bass-baritone player Terron Quailes, and the Salisbury University Jazz Ensemble, among others.

A particularly famous large red crab will drop at 9 p.m., concluding the event. The Maryland Crab Drop is unique to Easton and has been captured on live television, including on CNN, for a national audience before.

The entire event has already been filmed by local videographer Ray Remesch, with the videotaped performances packaged together for the audience this year.

First Night Talbot began 27 years ago, but its roots stretch to First Night Boston, which began its own artsy and musical performance tradition in 1975 that sparked the tradition in Easton.

First Night Boston will also be broadcasting virtually this year, as are many larger-scale events, including the famous Times Square ball drop in New York City.

Usually, First Night Talbot involves a parade of performances across town, with choir groups singing at Christ Church and performers displaying neat tricks at the Avalon Theater.

But Discover Easton is confident the event, though virtual, will be as fun and welcoming as usual.

The First Night Talbot chair, Carolyn Jaffe, pointed to Cascading Carlos as something to watch out for. She said “it’s pretty awesome” that the performer is returning for his 15th year.

“Carlos is one of our many treasured traditions, and we’re so pleased to be able to show (him) off virtually this year,” she said.

Hogan announces COVID-19 relief for ag, seafood producers

ANNAPOLIS — At the direction of Gov. Larry Hogan, the Maryland Departments of Agriculture and Natural Resources have now provided more than $9 million in COVID-19 relief funding to farmers, watermen and seafood producers.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented hardship for so many, and while Maryland’s farmers and producers are certainly no exception, they have continued to work hard every single day to support our food supply chain,” Hogan said. “We remain strongly committed to helping Maryland’s agricultural community as we weather this storm together.”

This relief is part of the more than $600 million in emergency economic relief that the state has announced during the COVID-19 pandemic. MDA’s Maryland Farmer COVID-19 Relief Fund granted nearly $5 million to farmers impacted by the pandemic. DNR has dedicated $3 million for direct payments to commercial, for-hire, aquaculture and seafood processing operations whose 2020 revenue has suffered a loss of greater than 35% due to COVID-19, plus $1 million to fund seafood marketing and business support for individuals in the seafood industry.

“Delmarva Fisheries Association applauds the efforts of Gov. Hogan and his administration, and specifically the secretary of Department of Natural Resources and her staff for moving forward with the allocation of the COVID-19 package to help with a financial burden that has been placed upon those in the seafood industry in Maryland,” Captain Robert Newberry stated in an email to The Star Democrat. Newberry is chairman of the trade organization Delmarva Fisheries Association Inc.

“The watermen of Maryland are a very important factor in the food chain supply to the general public, and are considered essential workers,” Newberry wrote.

“This year has been a challenge unlike any other, and that is especially true for the state’s food production businesses,” said MDA Secretary Joe Bartenfelder, a Caroline County farmer. “While we understand this money will not make everyone whole, it is the least we can do to provide some relief to the men and women who have worked throughout this public health crisis to ensure that we continue to have reliable access to a safe food supply.”

The Maryland Farmer COVID-19 Relief Program was announced by Governor Hogan on Oct. 19. The program provided direct payments to contract poultry growers at a rate of $1,000 per poultry house (capped at five houses per farm). Growers whose flocks were depopulated due to disruptions related to COVID-19 were eligible for an additional $1,500 per house. The program also provided 15% bonus payments to any Maryland farmer who received funding from the federal Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 1 (CFAP1). This covered a wide range of commodities, including grain, livestock, dairy, and produce.

“Grain farmers deal with a lot of uncertainty every year, and 2020 was no different, (but it was) exacerbated, obviously, by COVID, And so farmers were planting crops in the spring with uncertain markets and low prices,” said Lindsay Thompson, executive director of Maryland Grain Producers.

The Maryland Farmer COVID-19 Relief Program paid $1.99 million to poultry growers and $2.86 million in CFAP1 bonus payments. In total, the program dispersed $4.86 million to 1,363 Maryland farm families. MDA worked swiftly to review applications within seven days of receipt. Approved applications were forwarded to the comptroller’s office for payment.

“Through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program at the federal level, and the bonus payment offered at the state level — which not many states did that I am aware of for agriculture — I think that most grain farmers were able to make it work in 2020,” Thompson said. “So we are certainly appreciative for that assistance, and definitely thankful to the governor and MDA for that.”

Holly Porter, executive director of the Delmarva Chicken Association, expressed the gratitude of the trade association and “the more than 600 farm families that raise broiler chickens on Maryland’s Eastern Shore (who) are grateful for the Maryland Farmer COVID-19 Relief program and the Maryland Department of Agriculture’s streamlined process.”

“Contract chicken growers did not qualify for federal funds from the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) 1 or 2, but many farms felt the impact, like other parts of agriculture,” Porter said. “These funds will help growers who had a loss in revenue, due to longer layouts, decreased capacity or depopulation.”

DNR began its program Nov. 4, and already more than $330,000 has been paid out in the first round of funding. To date, the state received more 440 applications for relief to the seafood industry, and about 340 have already been approved; the department will continue its outreach until the application deadline of Feb. 28, 2021. Additional money will be distributed to grantees in spring 2021.

“This funding provides much needed relief to help eligible individuals in the seafood industry get through these tough market conditions,” said DNR Secretary Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, a Talbot County native.

“With the governor’s leadership and our strong federal partnerships, we have worked to make the application process as seamless as possible for those who need it,” she said. “We will continue working with industry on long-term strategies to recover and strengthen Maryland’s markets post-pandemic.”

Agriculture and seafood industry leaders are grateful for the help as markets, particularly seafood restaurants, and decreased demand for products.

“It has been a challenging year not only because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also with the market result of limited purchasing due to the restaurant closures, specifically during the striped bass season and the oyster season at hand,” Newberry wrote. “Hopefully, some of this funding will help those that need it, and with the marketing money that has been allocated, new markets will be explored.”

“The relief program is just one small way to help growers who continued to step up during the pandemic to make sure that citizens throughout Maryland had food on their tables,” Porter said.

Grandmother making a home for three grandchildren

Georgia was recently awarded custody of three grandchildren, Trevor, 10, Kenyon, 8, and Maddie, 3.

She had to quit her job in order to take care of and make a home for them. The children’s father is in jail, and their mother is out of the picture. This will be their first Christmas on their own.

Your donation to The Star Democrat‘s Brighter Christmas Fund could help Georgia and her grandchildren during the holiday season.

The Brighter Christmas Fund is a 501(c)(3) charity, and tax-deductible donations, which also help other families in need on the Mid-Shore, may be sent to The Brighter Christmas Fund, c/o The Star Democrat, P.O. Box 600, Easton, MD 21601. Donations also may be made online via credit card or Paypal at www.brighterchristmasfund.org. Click the “Donate” button. For more information about the Fund, call 410-200-1884.

The total to date is: $77,580.75

Those sharing the spirit of giving with others this holiday include:

In memory of my dear wife Beata Carmichael

In memory of my dear parents Spero and Mary Carmichael

In memory of my dear wife Margaret Jackson

In memory of my dear parents George and Phoebe Jackson

In honor of Tom and Susan Campbell from their employees at Campbell’s Boatyards

Rose Sigman

Bonnie and Tim Haynes

Martin Halvorsen

Phillip Councell

In memory of Robert Allen Willey

Elizabeth Lechthaler

Alan and Penny Griffith

In memory of Willoughby-McAllister family members

Karl Lemp

In memory of my parents Bill and Hazel Newnam

In memory of my sister Suzanne Newnam Towers

In memory of my husband Arthur H. Kudner Jr.

Jerry and Barbara Friedman

Jamesene Randall

Cassie S. Garner

In memory of my parents Frank and Mary Ann Klein

In memory of my wonderful husband Lawrence E. Hiner Jr.

Sam and Rosemary Trippe

New Beginnings United Methodist Women

In memory of Katherine Mourlas

Sandra Wellford King and Clarence King Jr.

In loving memory of Virginia Cornette Church

Gene and Cindy Counihan

In memory of Chrissy and Rommel King

Stephen and Susan Creyke

In memory of Judy Howeth Foster, George and Betty Laird, Earl T. Foster Jr., Cathy Lynn Foster and Donald Lee Foster

Charles and Sally Blizzard

Bernard and Nancy Coates

Mary Jane Wyant

Wilson and Norma Daffin

In memory of Emanuel R. Fisher

Bark Madness calendars have arrived

Bark Madness calendars have arrived. The 2021 Bark Madness calendar and the 2020 winners are inserted in today’s edition for our home delivery subscribers. This is a holiday gift for

our subscribers with a heartfelt thank you for your support. Happy New Year.

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Health officer weighs in on COVID-19 'vaccination passport' concept

EASTON — Talbot County’s Acting Health Officer Dr. Maria Maguire confirmed vaccination cards are being given to those who get inoculated against COVID-19, but she said she’s unsure how the cards’ uses might evolve as the vaccine becomes more widely available.

Many people have speculated that COVID-19 vaccine cards, given to people after they get vaccinated, will eventually be used as immunity passports.

Maguire said the cards indicate to health providers and vaccinators which vaccine a person received and when. The information ensures a person’s second vaccine dose comes from the same manufacturer as the first and at the appropriate time.

Whether these cards will eventually be used as “vaccination passports” that would identify vaccinated people and qualify them for certain permissions that non-vaccinated people might be denied, Maguire said she doesn’t know that yet.

“That’s something other people besides me will decide,” she said. The cards, coupled with data plugged into a statewide vaccination registry called ImmuNet, “help us keep track of who got the vaccine and when, should there ever be any question about that.”

The front of the vaccine cards list the type of vaccine a person got, the individual lot number that’s on it to identify the specific unit and the date the dose was administered, Maguire said. On the back of the card is the date of the person’s next scheduled dose.

Tracking when a vaccine was administered to an individual is important, specifically because the two currently authorized COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. both require two shots to be administered different lengths of time apart.

The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine requires doses to be administered 28 days apart, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine requires a second dose 21 days after the first.

The Eastern Shore has received shipments of both vaccine types among its hospitals, local health departments and group living facilities to date as part of Maryland’s statewide phased vaccination plan.

By the end of last week, Gov. Larry Hogan said the Maryland Department of Health would distribute 191,075 doses of both vaccine types for use among frontline health care workers and vulnerable assisted living facility residents across the state.

A spokesperson for University of Maryland Shore Regional Health, which comprises the Mid-Shore’s three main hospitals, declined to say on Tuesday how many doses of the COVID-19 vaccine the hospital system has received to date. SRH vaccinated its first staff member on Dec. 16.

“UM Shore Regional Health has begun receiving supplies of both Pfizer and Moderna vaccine, with additional deliveries from the Maryland Department of Health expected in the coming weeks,” SRH said in a statement to The Star Democrat.

The hospital system said as of Monday, Dec. 28, it has held “a total of 29 vaccination clinics for employees at our three hospital campuses” in Easton, Chestertown and Cambridge.

“We are continuing to schedule clinics for Phase 1A staff into the New Year, followed by staff in the additional phases, as vaccine supply is made available,” SRH said. The system’s spokesperson declined to provide specifics in response to questions about its vaccine supply and how many of its staff members have been vaccinated.

According to MDH data, about 2,880 Shore residents have taken the COVID-19 vaccine as of Tuesday. That number accounts for 0.68% of the nine-county region’s roughly 450,000 population, the MDH vaccine dashboard indicates.

Maguire did not immediately respond to an inquiry about whether the Talbot County Health Department has received the 100 COVID-19 vaccine doses that it expected to receive last week ending Dec. 25.