MARYLAND COVID-19 CASES AT 12: Gov. Larry Hogan announced four more cases of the new coronavirus in Maryland Wednesday, in addition to the nine already confirmed, the Baltimore Sun is reporting. One of the four will be assigned to Montana since the patient is only a part-time resident of Anne Arundel County.
- Hogan said a Montgomery County man in his 20s who recently traveled to Spain tested positive, as did a Baltimore County resident who worked at the recent American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in Washington, D.C. Neither person has been hospitalized, Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters reports. A Prince George’s County man in his 60s also has been infected.
- Anne Arundel County’s first confirmed case of the COVID-19 coronavirus is a woman in her 70s. According to officials at a news briefing late Wednesday afternoon, the woman has been hospitalized, is in isolation and is in fair condition, Kate Amara reports for WBAL-TV.
- Gov. Hogan advises everyone to remain calm, stay informed but to take the coronavirus pandemic very seriously, Dave Collins reports for WBAL-TV. The governor doesn’t know whether any of the 12 Marylanders on board the Grand Princess cruise ship docked in California have tested positive. He said the feds haven’t tested them.
- The novel strain of the coronavirus, known as COVID-19, has spread to Maryland as concerns about the illness, travel restrictions and event cancellations mount. Hallie Miller of the Sun updates on the latest information.
- Dan Schere of Bethesda Beat writes about the Montgomery County cases, one of whom is a first responder living in Virginia.
- An individual who works in the University of Maryland’s Manokin building has been tested for coronavirus. The test results for the employee, who does not work for the university, are pending, Rina Torchinsky of the Diamondback reports.
PLANS, ROUTINES ALTERED: Gov. Hogan said the Motor Vehicle Administration will start taking appointment-only transactions in an effort to limit crowds and possibly stop or slow the spread of coronavirus, Bryna Zumer reports for WBFF-TV.
- In addition to the changes at MVA, Hogan said, the state also is limiting visits to inmates in state prison infirmaries and ordering employees who have flu-like symptoms to remain at home, Bryan Sears of the Daily Record writes.
- Elijah Westbrook of WBFF-TV reports from BWI Airport that many travelers are inconvenienced who are planning trips around the country during this time. This ban starts Friday morning and this will prohibit Europeans from entering the country for 30-days.
- Montgomery College has canceled classes for the rest of the week because of coronavirus concerns. It will also switch to online-only lessons from March 23 until April 3, Briana Adhikusuma writes for Bethesda Beat.
- In Baltimore, most events are so far moving forward as planned — but local tourism officials are keeping a close watch on news about the virus, which was classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organization Wednesday, Amanda Yeager of the Baltimore Business Journal reports.
- Federal courts in Maryland will prohibit entry to individuals in certain categories beginning this morning in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Heather Cobun of the Daily Record reports.
- Hood College and Mount St. Mary’s University have decided to move classes online as a result of growing concerns over COVID-19, Katryna Perera of the Frederick News-Post reports.
- Heather Mongilio of the Frederick News-Post reports that Hogan said nursing homes will stop allowing non-essential visitors. Staff are barred from international travel and, if sick, they are urged to stay home. The same will apply to state facilities that provides services to veterans.
ELECTIONS BY MAIL? Maryland officials are in talks on how to hold a mail-in-only election for the April 28 primary, should it become necessary in response to multiple confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in the state, Sun staff are reporting.
HOGAN LEAVES LOCAL DECISIONS TO LOCALS: Gov. Hogan does not plan to order cities and counties in Maryland to close events due to the coronavirus pandemic, instead leaving decisions up to local leaders, Holden Wilen of the Baltimore Business Journal reports.
LOCAL GOVTs TAKE ACTION: The St. Mary’s County commissioners allocated $40,000 from their emergency reserve to the local health department to prepare for potential coronavirus cases in the county, even as the commissioners voted 3-2 to not yet declare a state of emergency, Madison Bateman of the Enterprise reports.
- The city of Laurel is hosting a virtual town hall meeting today to inform the public on preparations for a possible outbreak of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, Katie Jones of the Laurel Leader reports.
- Howard County this week announced the suspension of all out-of-state travel for county employees until at least mid-April due to the spread of the new coronavirus. Then on Wednesday, County Executive Calvin Ball canceled a residents’ budget hearing that was originally planned for today, Ana Faguy of the Howard County Times reports.
- Baltimore City’s human resources department released an emergency plan Wednesday afternoon, detailing operations for employees and city agencies during a potential coronavirus outbreak or other emergency in the city, Marcus Dieterle of Baltimore Fishbowl reports.
HOUSE OKs CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM: Maryland’s House of Delegates on Wednesday passed a package of campaign finance reform legislation aimed at preventing corruption and helping the State Board of Elections investigate wrongdoing, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports.
BIPARTISAN SUPPORT FOR CLEAN-WATER BILL: Republican and Democratic lawmakers joined clean-water advocates on Wednesday to declare their support for emergency legislation that would prohibit Maryland from waiving a water-quality certification in a settlement agreement with energy company Exelon for a 50-year federal license to operate the Conowingo Dam, Bryan Renbaum of MarylandReporter writes.
DIGITAL SALES TAX DEBATED: If enacted, House Bill 932 would apply the state’s 6% sales tax to digital services, including audio and e-books, audio and video streaming services like Netflix or Spotify, cable and satellite plans and online news subscriptions, to name a few, Hannah Gaskill reports in Maryland Matters.
- Republicans mounted a small attempt to amend the bill over a debate that lasted less than an hour; by comparison, a debate on Friday over legislation implementing the Kirwan Commission education recommendations lasted more than four hours over two separate sessions, reports Bryan Sears in the Daily Record.
OPINION: THE PROMISE OF KIRWAN: Jeffrey Zwillenberg of Reading Partners Baltimore, who has worked in education in Baltimore for the past decade, opines, in an op-ed in Maryland Matters, that, “I been more excited and hopeful about the promise of education in our state. This promise can only become a reality if our state legislators … decide to fully implement the recommendations of the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, better known as the Kirwan Commission.”
DEL. McKAY WITHDRAWS OPIOID BILL: Del. Mike McKay, R-Washington/Allegany, who for the past three years has championed legislation to require local departments of social services to assess safety risks to an opioid-exposed newborn,or a child whose parent has been found guilty of possession of an opioid, withdrew the bill on Wednesday, Tamela Baker reports in the Hagerstown Herald Mail.
ALSOBROOKS’ $4.58B PG BUDGET UPS ED FUNDING: Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks (D) on Wednesday proposed a $4.58 billion budget that adds significant funding for education, public safety and a “beautification” initiative aimed at cracking down on illegal dumping. It did not include a property tax increase, Rebecca Tan reports for the Post.