Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is reopening more businesses including movie theaters and ‘live entertainment’ venues and is allowing churches and retailers to up their capacity as the COVID-19 situation shows improvement.

This is the correct move. But we are not out of the COVID-19 woods.

Maryland ranks 21st among U.S. states for COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents and 13th for COVID deaths per capita tied with Delaware, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

The pandemic has taken a heavy toll on public health, on jobs and our most vulnerable. We must continue with common sense and responsible measures such as wearing masks and social distancing. We still do not know what the winter and next flu season holds.

Continued vigilance at nursing homes and other potential coronavirus hotspots is paramount.

But the economy also needs to continue to responsibly come back to life. While Hogan still has to navigate the contentious issue of school re-openings, many small businesses and many workers throughout Maryland and on the Eastern Shore need to see a return to some sort of normalcy.

We know lives are at stake with COVID. We also know livelihoods are also at stake and there are all kinds of other problems that arise from lost jobs and social isolation. The pandemic exacerbates substance abuse, depression and anxiety and homelessness.

The governor seems to understand the health and economic sides of the COVID coin carving a more common sense and less partisan path than other politicians on both sides of the aisle.

Hogan’s latest order continues to give localities the ability to guide their community’s path on COVID. That is a good idea on concept but also requires right-minded decision making at the local level.

Local leaders need to do better to help restaurants survive, aid displaced workers and inform small businesses about assistance programs. They also need to avoid foolish and politically motivated mandates and restrictions on specific businesses and activities but not others.

There are programs out there that continue to offer help for small businesses to survive the coronavirus pandemic and all its impacts.

Many small businesses were ordered to close while big-box stores remained open throughout the pandemic and consumers turned even more to Amazon.

The Talbot County Department of Economic Development and Tourism has started taking applications for a second round of the Talbot Cares Small Emergency Relief Grant program.

Talbot County has already helped 90 small businesses with just under $850,000 worth of grants from its CARES Act money. The county has also helped individuals with another $1.2 million out of Talbot’s total $6.4 million allocation from the federal stimulus program.

Small businesses can receive up to $10,000 in grant money to help them recoup from coronavirus related losses. The money can help with the costs of social distancing and personal protective equipment, rent, mortgage payments and utility bills.

We are not always keen about government solutions to community and private sector problems. But we hope deserving and hurting local businesses and their workers are helped by this effort.

The situation is improving. The economy is reopening and needs to reopen. We just need to continue down a common sense, less political and more responsible path.

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