EASTON — The Talbot County Council voted unanimously Tuesday evening to remain in a virtual meeting setting through May at the recommendation of county health officials.
The group of lawmakers has been meeting remotely since September 2020 when coronavirus spread in the county was increasing to levels that eventually prompted Maryland officials to tighten health safety restrictions across the state.
County Health Officer Dr. Maria Maguire did not answer specific questions about her recommendation, nor did she indicate when the public might be able expect the council to being meeting in the Bradley Room again, either with or without in-person public access.
“The decision was made to remain virtual for one additional month because our case rates remain high locally,” Maguire said in an email to The Star Democrat through a health department spokesperson.
Talbot County has 57 active COVID-19 cases and reported four new cases in the 24 hours prior to Friday, April 30. No new deaths attributable to COVID-19 have been recorded in the county since March 1, according to health department data.
Maguire’s advice comes at a time when local and state leaders, including the Talbot County Board of Education, have resumed in-person meetings after several months of meeting via video, though most are without public access.
Talbot County Public Schools teachers, staff and most students have also returned to in-person learning since classrooms reopened in February. None of the county’s eight public schools has had to close due to a COVID-19 outbreak.
While many people in Talbot County are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, half of the county’s population has yet to get a shot. But Talbot is in better shape than all other Maryland jurisdictions in terms of population percent vaccinated.
Just over 52% of Talbot residents has gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and nearly 42% have been fully vaccinated, according to the most recently updated county data.
By comparison across the Mid-Shore, Kent County has fully vaccinated 36.3% of its population. Queen Anne’s has 33.6% of its residents immunized, and Dorchester and Caroline have 30.9% and 30.6% respectively.
The five-member Talbot County Council had disagreements about its meeting format when they were deciding whether to go remote in August 2020. None of the lawmakers commented on the decision ahead of Tuesday’s unanimous vote.
The move to virtual meetings also came after the council voted last year to keep the Talbot Boys Confederate statue on the county courthouse lawn. The 3-2 vote to keep the Talbot Boys sparked protests and some disruptions of council meetings.