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Emergency_notice
Talbot lawmakers to undo face shield, alcohol service bans

EASTON — The Talbot County Council, during a meeting Tuesday, Aug. 25, is expected to vote to quash its emergency resolution from two weeks ago that effectively banned alcohol service at bars and face shields as a mask substitute to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

The pandemic-prompted restrictions, which the council passed in a 3-2 vote on Aug. 11, prohibited Talbot County bars and restaurants from serving customers alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption at an establishment’s bar area, and banned the use of face shields without an accompanying mask as a means to prevent the coronavirus’s spread.

Council Member Laura Price, who voted against the resolution and the two additional restrictive measures, told The Star Democrat the council is going to introduce a third resolution Tuesday that seeks to repeal in its entirety the second resolution.

The third resolution, titled “Enforcement Resolution,” will use Gov. Larry Hogan’s statewide virus-related mandates regarding masking, social distancing and other health safety requirements as a guide to outline Talbot’s county-level enforcement plan.

If passed, the new resolution would do away with the county’s added restrictions — namely the face shield and alcohol service at bars prohibitions — and decrease the fine for non-compliers from the council’s originally established $1,000 penalty to a fine that cannot exceed $500.

The document to be introduced Tuesday also states that fines can only be imposed on businesses, entities or organizations, not on individuals — a change from the language in the existing resolution.

The council’s move to consider undoing its enacted resolution comes in response to criticism from restaurant owners who voiced concern about their inability to serve customers at bar seating, and residents who said a face shield without an accompanying mask should qualify as a face covering.

Price said in a statement the county never should have enacted the “stricter regulations” to combat the virus because “there isn’t data to support” the need for them in Talbot County.

“Governor Hogan has a highly qualified team of experts and resources that we should rely on, therefore we should follow his recommendations,” she said, adding, “these are stressful times for everyone” and residents should “be assured that we are trying to do what is best for everyone in Talbot County.”

The council also is set to cover a bounty of other issues during Tuesday’s meeting set for 6 p.m. in the Bradley Meeting Room at the county courthouse, including:

  • An update from Talbot County’s Board of Elections Director Jeri Cook on preparations for the 2020 General Election.
  • A briefing on the state of the pandemic in the county by Talbot Health Officer Dr. Fredia Wadley.
  • A presentation and request by Mid-Shore Behavioral Health.
  • A public hearing on proposed federal funding assistance projects from the United States Department of Agriculture for aspects of select projects in the county.
  • A Talbot County diversity training report from County Manager Andy Hollis.

The meeting will be closed to the public except for press and presenters because of health safety concerns during the pandemic.

The above information is a non-exhaustive preview of Tuesday’s meeting agenda. For the full agenda, visit http://www.talbotcountymd.gov/uploads/File/council/Agenda.pdf.

Items sometimes are added to or subtracted from the agenda as the council deems necessary, without prior notice.

To access the meeting virtually, visit http://www.talbotcountymd.gov/. Click on the picture of the Talbot County Council on the bottom left hand corner of the page and the associated link will launch the Council Meeting Video streaming page. Closed Captioning is available on the livestream video.

To tune in via YouTube, visit https://www.youtube.com/midshorecommunitytelevision. Easton Cable subscribers can view the meeting through TV-Channel 98.

To participate via computer through WebEx Events go to: https://talbotcounty.webex.com/talbotcounty/onstage/g.php?MTID=e7289721b495c163a27a8c4415b890a0c and enter event number: 160 161 5476 and event password: 082520.

Those who wish to provide public comment are encouraged to submit written public comments to the Talbot County Council via e-mail to publiccomment@talbotcountymd.gov or via mail to County Council, Courthouse, South Wing, 11 North Washington Street, Easton, MD 21601.

To provide comments verbally during the meeting, citizens can call 415-655-0002 or toll-free 855-797-9485 — enter access number 160 161 5476 and press *3 to indicate a desire to make public comments.

The caller will hear the prompt, “You have raised your hand to ask a question. Please wait to speak until the host calls on you.” When public comments are ready to be accepted, the host will unmute one-by-one the callers who have indicated they wish to speak, at which point the selected caller will hear the prompt, “Your line has been unmuted.”


Local_news
TCPS staff returns to school buildings

EASTON — As Talbot County Public Schools prepares for a school year unlike any in recent memory, staff returned to work for their first day of the year on Monday.

Most staff was in their respective school buildings. TCPS Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kelly Griffith said it was “inspiring” to see staff return.

“They are preparing for a very different start to the school year with the same enthusiasm and resilience that they have always shown,” Griffith said. “They are quickly adapting to our new safety protocols and have immersed themselves in our virtual instruction environment and platforms. It’s going to be a great year!”

In a virtual presentation marking the beginning of the school year, Griffith welcomed 67 new TCPS staff members.

During her closing remarks, Griffith discussed resilience — the schools’ opening day theme, which was referenced throughout the presentation.

“Resilience is a simple test. It is a test between you and a mirror,” Griffith said. “What do you see each day when you look in the mirror? That is the test. It is how we challenge ourselves to be better so we will make a difference, especially for our children.”

Griffith and others also recognized various award-winning staff members during the presentation.

Easton High math teacher David Cherry was named TCPS Teacher of the Year for 2020-21.

Shannon Beatty, TCPS Curriculum Supervisor, spoke highly of Cherry.

“(Cherry is) well-respected by his students, families and colleagues. Mr. Cherry finds ways to engage all of his students by building strong relationships and making math relevant,” Beatty said. “David challenges his students by providing rigorous opportunities for all students, understanding that each student enters with varying needs. We know that he will represent TCPS well at the state and national level.”

Cherry spoke about resilience and its importance for teachers, particularly during a pandemic.

“Our students are resilient,” Cherry said. “Many of them have faced challenges in their daily lives that most of us teachers would never imagine. Our students will bounce back from the pandemic. They will recover from their time lost in the classroom. But it is our mission to help them along the way.”

Easton High special education instructional assistant Tasha Aikens was named TCPS Support Staff of the Year.

Beatty referenced the work she did in the spring after schools closed because of COVID-19.

“Ms. Aikens has made a tremendous impact on the lives of her students and families,” Beatty said. “Specifically, Tasha found creative ways to meet the varying needs of her students during continuity of learning this past spring. Anyone who has witnessed Ms. Aikens in the classroom knows that she exemplifies a selfless team player who strives to meet the needs of all of her students every single day.”

Aikens, a breast cancer survivor, spoke on the resilience theme and how it impacted her during her 2018 diagnosis.

“After receiving this horrifying news, I immediately thought about the students I worked with, and was determined that though I had been knocked down, I needed to rise back up,” Aikens said. “So I made sure to schedule my chemo treatments in the afternoon, so that I could get the strength and love from my students and supportive co-workers that I would need to endure my treatment.”

Hertrich Ford presented both Cherry and Aikens with brand new cars in recognition of their awards. Aikens received a 2020 Buick Encore GX, and Cherry received a 2020 Chevy Blazer.

Listed below are the other award recipients during the virtual presentation.

  • Community Award: Chesapeake Multicultural Resource Center
  • Wardell Brice Multicultural Award: Dr. Christine Davis
  • J. Sam Meek Unsung Hero Awards: Dr. Lisa Devaric, Emily Moody
  • Brewster Merrill Technology Award: Leann Robinson
  • Administrative Professional Award: Jennifer Salisbury
  • Instructional Support Award: Deja Thompson
  • Substitute Teacher Award: Beth Heinsohn
  • Plant Operations Award: Dennis Kellum
  • Transportation Award: Dominique Denby

Follow me on Twitter @SethTow. Follow us on Instagram @StarDem_Sports.


Local
Papermill Branch restoration nears completion

EASTON — The Town of Easton is making progress toward its goals for cleaner water, reduced flooding and a healthier habitat.

As the Papermill Branch Stream Restoration project is nearing completion, it was put to the test on Aug. 4, when Tropical Storm Isaias blew through Easton, with powerful winds dumping inches of rain in a matter of hours.

“Isaias was the first big test for the Papermill Branch Stream Restoration project, and it held up well. The water stayed within the restoration area and did not cause any significant damage to the construction we have done,” said Town Engineer Rick Van Emburgh.

The summer storms continue, and with them, flooding and closures to many streets in and around Easton due to an overload on the storm water drainage systems. The streams overflow, drains clog with debris, and the water has nowhere else to go but in the streets, yards and parking lots.

To combat the flooding and erosion issue, Easton secured funding for two stream restoration projects, Papermill Branch and Tanyard Branch streams.

With the help of Envision the Choptank, a grant for the design was awarded to the Town from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Chesapeake Bay Foundation assisted in connecting these projects to recent Municipal Storm Sewer System Permit Program requirements, helping Easton meet its stormwater management goals. Easton used the designs developed to obtain a grant for construction from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund.

“The Mayor’s leadership and the Public Works commitment to making progress on clean water by finding resources and tools and being proactive about going out and getting them should be commended,” said Alan Girard, Eastern Shore director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Funding for and the implementation of these projects was a successful collaboration of resources and organizations. The collaboration started with Girard connecting Van Emburgh with Joanna Ogburn, principal of JBO Conservation, who serves as the facilitator for Envision the Choptank. With its network of conservation organizations, government agencies and local citizens, Envision the Choptank helped Easton obtain a grant for the design phase.

“Rick was great to work with; he was excited and enthusiastic. The Mayor, the Town and the staff were dedicated. It was really refreshing. We were lucky to work with such a nice and fun partner,” Ogburn said.

“We had a great team of dedicated individuals to help make this happen,” Easton Mayor Robert Willey said.

The final phase is the planting of native trees and shrubs to help prevent erosion and improve water quality and habitat. Coming soon, the community will be invited to a Volunteer Planting Day at the Papermill Branch stream, giving everyone a chance to be involved and learn more about the importance of stream restoration. Details will be announced.

The Papermill Branch stream project is expected to be completed by the end of September 2020. The Tanyard Branch project will begin this fall and is expected to be completed by March 2021.


Emergency_notice
Talbot adds 52 virus cases, 1 death in 2 weeks

EASTON — More than 50 Talbot County residents became infected with the coronavirus during the past two weeks, five were hospitalized and a seventh resident has died of the associated respiratory illness, according to county health data.

As of Monday morning, Aug. 24, Talbot is reporting 82 active infections among residents and 455 confirmed cases of the virus to date — an increase of 52 cases since two weeks ago on Aug. 10.

Since the pandemic infiltrated the county in March, seven residents are confirmed to have died from COVID-19, 50 residents have required hospitalization and 366 have recovered, the health department reported Monday.

Nearly 80% of all recorded infections in Talbot have occurred among Easton residents, with a total tally of 362 confirmed cases in the town, according to zip code data from the Maryland Department of Health.

The same data show 24 cases have been recorded in Trappe, 21 in St. Michaels and 17 in Cordova. The remaining 31 cases’ locations are unknown because MDH does not disclose virus data for zip codes reporting fewer than seven confirmed cases.

Of the Mid-Shore’s five counties, Talbot is the third most-infected behind Caroline and Queen Anne’s counties. Queen Anne’s is reporting 517 confirmed infections; Caroline, 479; Dorchester, 430; and Kent, 254, according to MDH data.

Talbot’s coronavirus death rate, however, is low with 1.5% of infected residents dying from COVID-19 — compared to that of Kent at 8.7% with 22 deaths and Queen Anne’s at 4.8% with 25 deaths since the pandemic’s onset.

Dorchester County is reporting a 1.2% death rate with five residents having died of COVID-19 to date. Three Caroline County residents are reported to have died of virus-related illness, making Caroline’s death rate 0.6%, state data show.

Talbot County continues to process a high volume of virus tests — mainly at the Easton High School drive-through site, which has administered 1,925 tests since it opened on June 8. The county’s population, of which 25.5% have been tested for the virus during the health crisis’s entirety, also remains among the most-tested of Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions.

The EHS site, operated by the county health department, is open from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays by appointment only, and exclusively to Talbot County residents.

To schedule an appointment, call 410-819-5632. No doctor’s referral is required, and the cost will be covered for those who do not have health insurance.

Also contributing to Talbot County’s high testing volume is University of Maryland Shore Regional Health’s partnership with Chesapeake College to operate a drive-through test site on the college’s campus in Wye Mills. The campus test site primarily serves residents of the Mid-Shore’s five counties.

Pam Addy, vice president of ambulatory and clinical services at UM SRH, said in a press release Monday the Chesapeake College test site was erected in response to a need for increased community-based virus testing during the pandemic.

“We are pleased to partner with Chesapeake College and our five county health departments in our region to provide additional drive-through testing on the Eastern Shore,” Addy said, adding the campus was the “perfect” central location for the testing operation.

Appointments for testing are required and are offered between 8:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays, based on availability. Turnaround time for test results at the Wye Mills site is “typically 48 to 72 hours,” the press release stated.

Those who wish to be tested for the virus there can schedule an appointment for a free test by visiting https://www.umms.org/shore/coronavirus/testing-locations and following the link to “Schedule a free COVID test online.”

After getting tested, individuals can sign up for electronic access to their results through UM SRH’s MyPortfolio online health information system. A nurse also will call those who were tested there with their test results if they do not view their results online, the regional health system said.

In order to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus and to ensure compliance with statewide COVID-19 restrictions in Maryland, the Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), MDH and the Maryland State Police recently established a toll-free “COVID Prevention Line.”

Residents can call 1-833-979-2266 or email prevent.covid@maryland.gov to report “situations where guidelines are being ignored or the potential for spread of COVID-19 is high,” according to a recent Talbot health department press release.