EASTON — At the recommendation of local health officials, the Talbot County Council voted unanimously to end the state of emergency under which the county has been operating for nearly four months amid the coronavirus pandemic. The declaration expires Tuesday, June 30.
Talbot Emergency Services Director Clay Stamp during the council’s meeting Tuesday, June 23, said he and Health Officer Dr. Fredia Wadley are OK with allowing the declaration to expire because the change doesn’t hinder the Emergency Operations Center’s continued mitigation and recovery efforts.
Stamp said the state of emergency declaration allowed the county to call attention to the public health crisis as it emerged, pass emergency legislation to respond to the threat and open up means to obtain necessary funds and supplies.
In early March when Talbot declared its emergency, the county did not have adequate COVID-19 testing and contact tracing capabilities, nor did it have a sufficient supply of personal protective equipment — but “now we do,” Stamp said, attributing the progress to the declaration’s enabling factors.
“Great things have been learned and great things have been accomplished in this county, in particular,” he said. “It reaffirms my faith in people. In Talbot County, good people with good intent can do amazing things.”
Stamp pointed to the food pantries’ stepping up to provide food for those whose incomes were impacted, health care providers’ coordinated efforts to accommodate a potential surge in positive cases, and other achievements, as evidence of the county’s collective resolution.
Talbot’s EOC, Stamp said, has been running for more than 100 days and it will remain active after the declaration’s June 30 expiration — with its leaders continuing to hold weekly calls with operation coordinators and business people, and focusing on the county’s recovery.
“We have plenty of work to do on the recovery side,” he said, adding, “We will stay on it and take the pulse of what’s going on, recognizing the virus is not going anywhere.”
The emergency services director said the county is working toward finding “that balance between being responsible and opening up.”
“We will continue to do that, and if necessary, I can always come back to the county council and ask you to reinstate the state of emergency,” he said to the council members. “Let’s hope that it doesn’t become necessary.”
Stamp acknowledged the path to recovery is going to be a “bumpy, rough road.” He said Gov. Larry Hogan’s official “Maryland Strong: Roadmap to Recovery,” on which Maryland’s jurisdictions are basing their recovery efforts, is a “good plan” not a “perfect plan.”
“As much as people would like black and white as far as clarity in how we get back to open and normal, it’s not going to be clear,” Stamp said. “But we do have a plan, we do have a process to coordinate moving down that road.”
During the June 23 meeting, Stamp introduced the county’s recovery coordinator, Nancy Andrew, who will help maintain Talbot County’s preparedness level and assist with various components of the recovery efforts outlined in Hogan’s recovery plan.
Wadley, the county’s health officer, was not able to attend the council meeting with Stamp, but she said in a press release, “at this point,” her department is “closely monitoring the numbers and supporting the community as the statewide recovery plan is implemented.”
“The good news is that all of the necessary components are in place for us to better respond if the trending shifts and we see a resurgence of COVID-19 infections.” Wadley said.
Council President Corey Pack applauded the county’s response to the COVID-19 health crisis, but he acknowledged, “We’re not out of it yet.”
“We are by no means out of this yet. This is just a transition,” Pack said. “We’re prayerful that we don’t have a bounce-back, but we’re not there yet.”
The council president said the council’s ending the county’s state of emergency is as if Talbot is entering its next “own mini recovery phase.”
“This is just moving to another stage here in Talbot County,” he said.
Pack urged the public to continue following health safety guidelines, such as maintaining a physical distance from others, employing thorough hand washing and wearing a mask in public places.