ANNAPOLIS — After the Maryland General Assembly’s 2020 legislative session came to a screeching halt last week amid novel coronavirus fears, two dozen lawmakers were called back in to help the state combat the outbreak — including two from the Eastern Shore.
Sen. Steve Hershey, R-36-Upper Shore, and Del. Jeff Ghrist, R-36-Caroline, were tapped by Senate President Bill Ferguson, D-46-Baltimore City, and House Speaker Adrienne Jones, D-10-Baltimore County, to serve on a COVID-19 Response Legislative Workgroup.
The workgroup is charged with monitoring the state’s actions concerning the COVID-19 health threat and providing guidance to Gov. Larry Hogan as he issues executive orders and takes actions he believes will help keep Marylanders safe.
As members of the workgroup, Hershey and Ghrist will be the eyes, ears and voice of the Shore — communicating their region’s needs to Hogan’s administration when necessary, and serving as a reliable source of virus-related State House updates for Shore residents.
Among the issues the workgroup could be tasked with tackling through legislation, Hershey said, are the availability of existing health care facilities, and expanding tele-health guidelines and capacity.
“The Eastern Shore has numerous facilities that may be repurposed to care for our citizens as the number of virus cases surges,” Hershey said. “Places like Chestertown Hospital and the Whitsitt Center have space that could be available immediately.”
Though, Hershey said, “We may need special scope-of-practice exemptions for these healthcare facilities” — which is where the workgroup would come in to help facilitate such authorizations.
Ghrist said he already is hearing from his constituents about coronavirus-related issues, which he said the workgroup will collaboratively discuss to determine whether any policy changes are needed to address them.
The 24-person workgroup comprising lawmakers from across the state will work together to “create a plan that will help all Marylanders” through the COVID-19 health crisis, Ghrist said.
Perhaps more pointedly, though, the group will expedite the proverbial cutting of red tape so Maryland as a whole can access the health resources its residents need in a timely manner as COVID-19 continues to rapidly spread.
“The ideas are out there. We need to find ways to quickly implement them,’ Hershey said, adding, “The only way we can slow the spread of this virus and get through this is by all of us working together.”