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Preliminary hearing delayed in Tilghman rape case

EASTON — A preliminary hearing slated for Monday, July 13, in the case of a Tilghman man who allegedly strangled and raped a woman last month has been postponed and rescheduled for Wednesday, July 15.

The hearing’s postponement was at the request of Talbot County Deputy State’s Attorney Ellen Grunden, who filed the motion because she was unavailable for Monday’s hearing, according to court documents.

The two-day postponement, approved by Talbot District Judge Karen Ketterman, was set to allow “preparation time” to reassign the case to another prosecutor, the documents stated.

Tanner Dixon Barrow, 27, now is expected to appear before the court for a preliminary hearing at 2 p.m. Wednesday. The hearing will determine whether the charges against Barrow are upheld and his case goes to trial.

Barrow is facing charges of first- and second-degree rape, third- and fourth-degree sex offense, first- and second-degree assault and reckless endangerment in connection with a June 16 incident that involved Barrow allegedly climbing on top of, strangling and raping a sleeping woman inside a Tilghman home, according to court records.

The woman, who reportedly knew Barrow and had spent the evening with him at a friend’s house prior to the alleged rape, told police that she awoke on a couch at about 3:30 a.m. to Barrow sexually and physically assaulting her.

Barrow was identified as a suspect in the case and arrested the next day, according to police records. He was ordered held without bond at the Talbot County Detention Center on Tuesday, June 18.

Barrow now has three pending cases against him, including the felony rape case, court records show. The other two cases involve drunk driving charges and an alleged arson threat toward a police officer from June 2019, and a probation violation, which was prompted by Barrow’s alleged rape offense.

Barrow is scheduled to appear in court for the probation violation hearing at 1:15 p.m. on Oct. 28, and a plea hearing in the arson case against him at 2:30 p.m. Aug. 4, according to court records.

Hearing set for deputy's alleged home burglar

CAMBRIDGE — A 29-year-old woman accused of burglarizing the home of the former Talbot deputy who allegedly physically and sexually assaulted her earlier this year is expected to appear Monday, July 27, in Dorchester Circuit Court.

The woman waived her right to a preliminary hearing in the felony burglary case against her on Thursday, June 11. Prosecutors subsequently upheld all three charges in the case, which include third- and fourth-degree burglary and malicious destruction of property valued at less than $1,000.

The charges stem from an April 6 incident during which the 29-year-old allegedly entered the home of former Talbot deputy Darius Lamont Tilghman, 27, through a broken window and poured bleach on his clothes while he was not there, according to court documents.

The woman reportedly confessed to police that she entered Tilghman’s home in Hurlock without permission and threw his clothes around the house. Police records make no mention of whether she acknowledged having allegedly doused the clothes with bleach.

She was arrested and later released from jail on the condition that she would be monitored by electronic GPS and have no contact with Tilghman, whom she reportedly has known for years.

The woman has alleged that Tilghman physically and sexually assaulted her during the same April 6 incident, as well as on at least one other occasion in January during which Tilghman reportedly threatened her with his service handgun while off duty, she told police. The former deputy was arrested in connection with her allegations and remains held without bond at the Dorchester County Detention Center.

Tilghman’s employment with the Talbot County Sheriff’s Office, where he had worked since 2014, was terminated in June in response to the assault and sex offense charges against him, and a related protective order that bars him from carrying a weapon.

Tilghman is facing one felony charge of first-degree assault, and several misdemeanors, including two counts of second-degree assault, fourth-degree sex offense, reckless endangerment and use of a handgun during a violent crime.

The alleged burglar is expected to attend an initial appearance hearing at 9:30 a.m. July 27 in Dorchester Circuit Court.

Tilghman on Monday, June 15, waived his right to a preliminary hearing in the assault case against him, and his case is slated to go to trial. Further proceedings have not yet been scheduled.

US budget deficit hits all-time high of $864 billion in June

WASHINGTON (AP) — The federal government incurred the biggest monthly budget deficit in history in June as spending on programs to combat the coronavirus recession exploded while millions of job losses cut into tax revenues.

The Treasury Department reported Monday that the deficit hit $864 billion last month, an amount of red ink that surpasses most annual deficits in the nation’s history and is above the previous monthly deficit record of $738 billion in April. That amount was also tied to the trillions of dollars Congress has provided to cushion the impact of the widespread shutdowns that occurred in an effort to limit the spread of the viral pandemic.

For the first nine months of this budget year, which began Oct. 1, the deficit totals $2.74 trillion, also a record for that period. That puts the country well on the way to hitting the $3.7 trillion deficit for the whole year that has been forecast by the Congressional Budget Office.

That total would surpass the previous annual record of $1.4 trillion set in 2009 when the government was spending heavily to lift the country out of the recession caused by the 2008 financial crisis.

The June deficit was driven higher by spending on various government relief programs such as an extra $600 per week in expanded unemployment benefits and a Paycheck Protection Program that provided support to businesses to keep workers on their payrolls.

The report showed that the cost of the Paycheck Protection Program in June was $511 billion. That reflected a charge to the government for all the bank loans made under the program even though the government will not actually have to pay out funds until the banks determine whether the businesses met the criteria for having the loans forgiven. Those requirements include spending at least 60% of the loan amount on worker pay with the other 40% going to overhead costs such as rent and utilities.

Another reason for the surge in the June deficit was the government’s decision to delay tax payments this year until July 15. That decision mean that quarterly payments made by individual taxpayers and corporations will not be due until July 15 this year rather than June.

So far this budget year, revenues total $2.26 trillion, down 13.4% from the same period last year, while spending totals $5 trillion, up 49.1% from a year ago.

The CBO estimate of a $3.7 trillion deficit for this year could go higher depending on the course of the economy. The country fell into a deep recession in February, ending a record long expansion of nearly 11 years. The Trump administration is predicting that the economy will come roaring back in second half of this year but many private forecasters are concerned that a resurgence of virus cases could make consumers too fearful to resume spending, which drives 70% of the economy.

Congress which has already approved more than $3 trillion in a series of rescue packages, is scheduled to debate another support effort when it returns from recess on June 20. Democrats are pushing for an extension of the expanded unemployment benefits which will soon run out.

Nancy Vanden Houten, senior economist at Oxford Economics, said she was expecting that lawmakers would end up compromising on a new economic support package that would fall somewhere between a $3.5 trillion measure passed by the House but not taken up by the Senate and what is shaping up to be an opening offer by Senate Republicans for a package of about $1.5 trillion.

“The risk is that the deficit will be larger due to additional stimulus but, given the congressional timetable, the impact of the next package will likely be skewed to fiscal 2021, which starts Oct. 1,” she said.

Storm water, sewage can taint Chesapeake swimming areas

There are plenty of reasons to stay out of some Chesapeake Bay waters, particularly after a heavy rain. When storm water hits local waterways, it may be carrying bacteria, toxins, animal waste and even raw sewage. Can it carry the novel coronavirus too?

Some researchers are tracking the virus’ presence in sewage as an indication of how many people might be infected in a given area. They also are hustling to answer a secondary question: If the virus can be detected in sewage, could it also be in waterways that are tainted with sewage after it rains?

The short answer is yes — but probably not in a form that could infect additional people. While the virus that causes COVID-19 can be detected in untreated wastewater, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say “there is no evidence to date” that a person exposed to it in this form can contract the disease.

There are, however, still plenty of reasons to be concerned about swimming or recreating in water that has recently been polluted by sewage or storm water runoff. As swimming season begins, experts who study waterborne diseases say that catching the coronavirus from water contact is probably among the least of those concerns.

“Sewage was already dangerous. That’s why we have these standards about recreational waters,” said Mark Mattson, president of the nonprofit Swim Drink Fish and Waterkeeper for Canada’s Lake Ontario.

Mattson said he’s more concerned about people being able to prevent virus transmission by maintaining a social distance on busy beaches than he is about coronavirus spreading through open water. And plenty of other harmful bacteria could be present instead.

To that end, he helped create the Swim Guide app, where groups collecting water quality data can post it for the public to consider before engaging in water recreation. The app is now used in nine countries and by several Chesapeake Bay advocacy groups to post the results of weekly bacterial monitoring programs.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has added a new intonation to the question of whether or not you can get sick if you go to the beach,” a post about new coronavirus risks on the Swim Guide’s website begins. But, it continues, the tests on which the website’s information is based are “already designed to provide you with an indication of your health risks from recreational water illnesses when you go swimming.”

In other words, the tests already flag sites that might be unsafe for water contact because of sewage leaks or overflows — posing risks from bacteria, if not the novel coronavirus.

In sufficient numbers, these bacteria can cause gastrointestinal illness, skin and ear infections, and some conditions that can be life-threatening. These bacteria can enter the human body through the nose, ears or other openings as well as through small cuts.

Scientists worldwide have pivoted much of their research to focus on the coronavirus, and that is now true for the sewage and wastewater industries as well.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in May hailed a new study showing that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, could be detected in urine and stool samples at wastewater treatment facilities. So far, the virus has turned up there in higher concentrations than expected based on the number of clinically confirmed cases.

This data could help localities determine how many people are actually infected in a given area — including those without symptoms — and help them track changes in infection rates over time.

But these findings also raised new concerns about whether wastewater could be an additional conduit for the disease, particularly for those whose work puts them in potential close contact with sewage. The initial concern was for wastewater treatment plant workers, but those whose work involves collecting water samples that could contain traces of sewage also took notice.

There is currently “no evidence to date” that the coronavirus has been transmitted to a person via wastewater, either before or after the sewage moved through a wastewater treatment plant, according to the World Health Organization.

When wastewater became the latest frontier for coronavirus research this spring, the Hampton Roads Sanitation District in southeast Virginia was uniquely positioned to respond. The district, which provides wastewater treatment to 18 cities and counties in the region, had recently begun using molecular technology to identify emerging pathogens that could be coming in with the region’s wastewater as part of a pilot project started last July.

This foray into “wastewater epidemiology” could be used to identify public health trends in the population, from opioid use and antibiotic resistance to disease outbreaks.

The technology uses DNA sequencing to identify the presence of certain pathogens or chemicals while another machine allows the scientists to quantify how much is present. The district began monitoring for coronavirus in early March, around the time the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic.

“We were already set up to monitor wastewater, so it was a matter of validating and verifying the coronavirus methods as soon as they became available,” said Raul Gonzalez, an environmental scientist leading the effort.

So far, the treatment plants’ data reflects that the region could have about 10 times more coronavirus cases than were being counted by clinical statistics, a number that mirrors findings from studies in other locations.

But the district’s technology can’t tell researchers whether the coronavirus strains they find in wastewater are still “alive” or able to infect additional people. The technology identifies the virus by its RNA but doesn’t culture the virus to see whether it is still viable. Doing so would require a lab with one of the highest levels of pathogen safety. Few exist, but one in Arizona is conducting such a study.

“It’s still too early to definitively state whether wastewater contains infectious coronavirus,” Gonzalez said. “But we have an idea of which way all the studies are leaning.”

As of mid-May, he said, most of the studies indicate that coronavirus is no longer viable once it has passed through the digestive tract. One study indicated that fluid in the colon would be strong enough to deactivate the virus, “so by the time it gets into the stool and then wastewater, it’s likely inactive,” Gonzalez said.

This conclusion mirrors other scientific findings that coronaviruses have a “low environmental viability” and can easily be deactivated by disinfection or other environmental stressors.

A spokesman for DC Water, which runs the largest advanced wastewater treatment facility in the world at Blue Plains in the District of Columbia, said their treatment process would inactivate the virus.

“Right now, all water treatment processes using disinfectant would kill any bacteria, including COVID-19,” spokesman Vincent Morris said.

The virus could still be present in any raw sewage that overflows into streams and rivers, when rain overwhelms underground pipes or a treatment plant’s capacity. These polluted spills, called combined sewer overflows, occur in many communities throughout the Chesapeake region.

“In general, where there are combined sewer overflows, we tell everyone to avoid the water and so do not expect to change the guidance now,” Morris said.

The Waterkeeper Council sent out a memo at the end of March suggesting waterkeepers take additional precautions to protect themselves when collecting water samples, especially near outfalls for sewage-tainted storm water.

The memo mentioned that, during the SARS-CoV outbreak in 2003, there was “documented transmission associated with sewage aerosols” at a sewage treatment plant, a potential concern that was reiterated by more recent coronavirus research out of China as well.

Because waterkeepers collect water samples that could contain sewage, the potential for those particles to become aerosolized through a splash or spill led the council to recommend gloves, masks and other precautionary measures.

Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper Alice Volpitta said she wasn’t sure how to feel in advance of Memorial Day weekend as she prepared to take her first samples of the season — equipped with a face mask, goggles and gloves.

Volpitta said concerns about coronavirus in wastewater are another reminder that it’s important to curb sewage leaks and overflows in the region, which make water recreation inherently risky.

“Today, it’s coronavirus. Four years ago, there was Ebola, and there will be something else,” she said. “There are always horrible pathogens in sewage, which is why we can’t let our guard down even after this virus starts to leave the news cycle.”

Whitney Pipkin is a Bay Journal staff writer based in Virginia. She can be reached at This article was distributed by the Bay Journal News Service.