SCHOOL CLOSING EXTENDED 4 WEEKS: State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon announced on Wednesday that public schools will remain closed for an additional four weeks – at least through April 24 — to help limit the spread of the coronavirus, Bryan Renbaum of MarylandReporter writes.

  • School districts will have to swiftly retool to begin teaching nearly 900,000 students statewide with “distance learning” expected to begin on March 30, Catalina Righter of the Carroll County Times reports.
  • The closures could mean summer school or year-round learning for public school students in the state’s 24 jurisdictions, Melody Simmons reports for the Baltimore Business Journal.
  • Frederick County Public Schools began training teachers this week to provide online instruction to students in case the school closure was extended, Katryna Perera reports in the Frederick News-Post.
  • All 77 Howard County public schools and office buildings will remain closed and all school-related activities are canceled through April 24, according to a Wednesday news release. School system staff will continue to work remotely, Jess Nocera of the Howard County Times writes.
  • Here’s is Tamela Baker’s article for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.

HOSPITAL ALTERNATIVES SOUGHT: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is scouting out old school and hospital buildings in Maryland, even an unused prison, looking for additional spaces where the state could add thousands more critical-care beds during the coronavirus outbreak, the Sun’s Yvonne Wenger reports.

  • In the first meeting of the legislature’s new COVID-19 workgroup Wednesday, lawmakers received briefings on the efforts state government is taking to prepare for the expected wave of sick people, including building “pop-up hospitals” that could hold 30 patients at a cost of $200,000 each.

74 NEW CASES IN ONE DAY: Issuing a somber message Wednesday, Gov. Larry Hogan said the coronavirus outbreak in Maryland is just beginning and escalating rapidly, with the state reported an additional 74 cases, bringing the state’s confirmed total to at least 423, Yvonne Wenger of the Sun is reporting.

  • The tally of novel coronavirus cases in the Washington region climbed past 1,000 Wednesday as Maryland, Virginia and the District reported their largest single-day increases — a grim marker that illustrates both the continued spread of the virus and the fact that more testing is being done to detect it, an article by a Post team reports.

ELECTIONS BOARD PUSHES MAIL-IN VOTING: The State Board of Elections is recommending that there be no in-person voting for the June 2 primary due to the new coronavirus pandemic, pushing citizens to mail-in or drop-off ballots that would be sent to every one of Maryland’s more than 4 million voters, Emily Opilo reports for the Sun.

  • The board also voted to recommend avoiding any in-person voting for the special election in the 7th congressional district next month, Danielle Gaines reports in Maryland Matters.

TRAVELERS ASKED TO SELF-QUARANTINE: Marylanders returning from New York and its surrounding areas are being asked to self-quarantine under a new set of directives issued by Gov. Hogan meant to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, reports Bryan Sears for the Daily Record. His article is topped by a 45-minute video of the governor’s press conference.

PG TEACHERS, OTHERS ILL: Jason Flanagan, a 39-year-old Prince George’s County high school teacher and former freelance writer for the Baltimore Post-Examiner, was tested for COVID-19 six days ago, but his doctors and family members are still waiting for the results. He lays sedated in a hospital, hooked up to a ventilator, fighting for his life, Glynis Kazanjian writes for the Baltimore Post Examiner.

  • A staff member of a local restaurant has tested positive for COVID-19, as Frederick County reported four new confirmed cases of the disease, the Frederick News-Post’s Heather Mongilio reports.

COMMENTARY: DRAWBACKS TO SOCIAL DISTANCING: Dr. Shobhit Negi, a Baltimore psychiatrist, writes in MarylandReporter about the effect that social distancing has on those with cognitive disorders and physical disabilities.

HOGAN’s CONSULTATION TEAM: Gov. Larry Hogan has a team of seven public health specialists that he consults as he figures out how to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic. McKenna Oxenden and Daniel Oyefusi introduce us to them for the Sun.

FEDERAL AID TO MARYLAND: The $2 trillion stimulus package that now appears headed for congressional approval contains a variety of provisions that would offer help to Maryland, from unemployment benefits to small business loans, from extended unemployment benefits to direct payments to taxpayers, the Daily Record reports.

Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger

Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D

CONSTITUENT SERVICE FROM AFAR: “People need, now more than ever, to know that government is there to help them,” U.S. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, a Baltimore County Democrat, told Jeff Barker of the Sun. But in this trying period — when elected officials’ reputations can be made or broken — the lawmakers have an added strain: learning how to conduct business from afar.

GUN SALES UP: Steve Bohnel of the Frederick News-Post writes that Jim Perkins has been busy the past few weeks. That’s because he’s sold roughly triple the number of guns he typically sells around this time of year. “All they want is something for home protection. … I guess they’re scared about people stealing their food and toilet paper,” Perkins said with a laugh.

FRONT-LINE CITY WORKERS TO GET STIPEND: Beginning Monday, Baltimore will provide some city employees at the forefront of the coronavirus pandemic with a $200 biweekly stipend, writes Talia Richman for the Sun.

PLASTIC BAGS MAKE A COMEBACK: Now, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, single-use plastic bags are coming back into fashion — at least temporarily, Josh Kurtz reports in Maryland Matters.

Judge John Kuchno (Campaign website)

SITTING JUDGE FACES CHALLENGERS: John Kuchno, a Circuit Court judge in Howard County, can keep his job only if he wins the June 2 primary and general election against three other local attorneys, MarylandReporter’s Len Lazarick writes.

CARROLL NABS $2.6M FOR PROJECTS IN STATE BUDGET: Although Maryland’s 2020 General Assembly session ended early as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Carroll County received more than $2.6 million for projects and had legislation approved to extend alcohol sales to 2 a.m., Mary Grace Keller of the Carroll County Times reports.

NATIONAL CATHEDRAL FINDS, DONATES N95 MASKS: More than a decade ago, the Washington National Cathedral purchased thousands of the now highly sought N95 masks just in case the bird flu ever started wreaking havoc in the area. Now, they’ve been donated to two D.C.-area hospitals to help put a dent in the growing need for medical supplies being felt all across the U.S.