STEVENSVILLE — Congressman Andy Harris, MD-1st, visited four businesses in Queen Anne’s County Wednesday afternoon, April 29, some of them closed as non-essential businesses under the COVID-19 state of emergency since Gov. Larry Hogan’s directive back in mid-March. Harris visited the PRS Guitars factory in Stevensville, the Kent Narrows Boatel and Wye River Marine, both located near the Kent Narrows bridge, and the Queenstown Harbor Golf Links.
Harris, a medical doctor for more than 40 years, also is a military medical veteran. He said he feels all four of the businesses he visited should be among the first businesses to be permitted to reopen.
At PRS, Chief Operations Officer Jack Higginbotham said none of PRS’s 374 employees have lost their jobs nor been furloughed, at this point. The facility has been maintained by a skeleton crew of 12 employees during the closure.
He said, “We see all of our employees as extended family, and I applaud them all for remaining positive during this time period. We have continued to meet with all of them each week using Zoom.”
He added, “We have a plan to reopen when that time comes, where we will bring back 100% of our employees, but it will be done in shifts, so we can still practice social distancing while working. Even though the shifts will bring back 100% of the workers, we will only be able to work at 80% production.”
Higginbotham also said, “We’ll be taking the temperature of all our employees and anyone else who comes through our doors each day. We are going above the CDC compliance guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
Harris then visited the Boatel where he met with co-owners Rob Marsh and Jody Schulz. The Boatel is an indoor storage area where boats are kept during winter months. Marsh is also owner of Wye River Marine, located next door. Both businesses are open but have not been able to function as normal as recreational boating is currently prohibited.
The Boatel has 10 employees, three full-time and seven part-time. As people have their boats removed from the facility, none of the employees come into close contact with the clients, thus they can abide by the CDC guidelines for social distancing, Marsh said.
Marsh, Schulz and Harris all agree that recreational boating, still following CDC guidelines, should be permitted to resume.
Marsh said, “We need to allow people to get their boats out and use them for what they are intended for.”
Queen Anne's County Commissioners recently sent a letter to Gov.Larry Hogan asking him to reopen the state to recreational boating, horseback riding and golfing.
Commission President Jim Moran was present at the Boatel during Harris' visit. He said, "I believe we need to re-open (businesses) with those people who are most vulnerable or who have compromised health conditions continuing to do what they have been doing — staying at home and practicing social distancing. The rest of us need to get back to work."
Harris’ final stop was at Queenstown Harbor Golf Links where he spoke with 14-year veteran General Manager John Anderes.
Anderes told Harris, “We have 750 acres of fresh air out here for people to play golf and practice social distancing.”
Anderes went into details of how people would be able to play golf and stay far enough away from each other.
“Only one person per golf cart,” said Anderes, “unless someone prefers to walk the course while they play. All golf carts will be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized after each player returns them. Each golf cart has a screen mounted on it clearly stating to ‘Stay 6 feet apart from others playing’ while out on the course.
“All congregating areas, like ball washes, have been removed from the course. Also, on each green, the golf cup has been turned upside down, so no one will have to place their hand down in the cup to retrieve their ball, and the flag pole marking the hole will remain in the cup to keep people from touching the same surfaces.
“We’ve had all of this ready for sometime, and we’re ready to reopen when the OK is given. We normally have 45 employees working here at this time of year. Right now, we’re down to only eight employees working to maintain the grounds.”
Harris was pleased with all the precautionary measures he heard about at each place.
He said, “I’ve been in the medical field long enough to know what causes infections to spread. These businesses are using what I call ‘common sense’ approaches to re-open safely.”