PROBLEMS CONTINUE WITH STATE JOBLESS SITE: It took Shelly Bell 32½ hours to update her unemployment status. While the state’s unemployment filing system has been upgraded, it has repeatedly malfunctioned, sending delays and error messages to laid-off workers across the state, Ovetta Wiggins of the Washington Post reports.
JOBLESS CLAIMS DROP, BUT LITTLE GOOD NEWS FOR BIZ OWNERS: The number of new unemployment claims filed in Maryland dropped each week in April but the downward trend is of little comfort to the state’s small-business owners as the reopening of the state remains uncertain, reports Bryan Renbaum of MarylandReporter.
EFFECT ON SOME WORKERS: Julie Greene of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail writes about Meritus Health, one of the largest employers in Washington County, and how it has managed to save the jobs of its employees during the downturn by redeploying them to other jobs.
- Food-service workers, who said they had negotiated coronavirus pandemic relief from Johns Hopkins University, picketed outside of the Homewood campus on Friday, charging that Hopkins has reneged on the deal, Fern Shen of Baltimore Brew.
REOPEN ADVOCATES DRIVE TO PROTEST: About 250 cars gathered in the parking lot of Francis Scott Key Mall on Saturday morning, preparing to head out for the Cross State Reopen Maryland Rally. The group of concerned citizens decided to go bigger this time around, by starting in Frederick and driving all the way to Salisbury, reports Erika Riley for the Frederick News-Post.
- Dozens of Marylanders again demonstrated against Gov. Larry Hogan’s stay-at-home order, embarking on a caravan from Western Maryland to the lower Eastern Shore on Saturday, report Nathan Ruiz and Paul W. Gillespie of the Baltimore Sun. The ReOpen Maryland group planned the protest against the governor’s mandates after holding one in downtown Annapolis last month.
- Gov. Larry Hogan on Sunday rejected as “crazy” a suggestion from Maryland’s lone Republican congressman, Andy Harris, that the state has adopted a totalitarian approach to fighting COVID-19, writes Bruce DePuyt for Maryland Matters.
OPINION: RODRICKS SLAMS HARRIS: In a column for his personal blog, Sun columnist Dan Rodricks writes about U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, writing that this “right-wing politician, who compares Gov. Larry Hogan’s emergency order to something that might happen in China or North Korea, is the same right-wing politician who embraces Hungarian dictator Viktor Orban.”
STATE CANCELS $12.5M PPE CONTRACT: The state of Maryland on Saturday terminated a $12.5 million contract for personal protective equipment with a firm started this spring by two well-connected Republican operatives, Tom Hamburger and Juliet Eilperin report in the Post.
- Maryland’s Department of General Services says the state signed a $12.5 million deal on April 1 with Blue Flame Medical LLC for 1.5 million N95 masks and 110 ventilators, but the critically important goods never came, WBFF-TV reports.
ILLNESS, DEATHS AROUND STATE: The Eastern Shore poultry industry continues to see an increase in coronavirus among its workers, pushing up infection rates in the region, writes Pamela Wood in the Sun. A total of 279 workers in the poultry industry have tested positive for the coronavirus, state officials announced Friday.
- In an effort to provide support for poultry workers infected with COVID-19 — and to slow the spread of the deadly virus in Delmarva’s agricultural community — teams from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the states of Maryland, Delaware and Virginia are now on the ground providing increased testing and coordinating medical care, Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters reports.
- Another person in Washington County has died from COVID-19, the Maryland Health Department reported Sunday, Dave McMillion of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail reports. The health department said coronavirus deaths in the county increased from five to six.
- There have now been 5,150 cases of the coronavirus reported in Montgomery County — an increase of 5% since Saturday, Briana Adhikusuma of Bethesda Beat reports.
- Maryland continues to see increases in confirmed cases and deaths from the coronavirus, but Saturday showed a slight decline in hospitalizations, which state officials have said is key to the eventual rollback of social distancing measures, Jessica Anderson of the Sun reports.
- Baltimore County will open its fourth COVID-19 testing site today at the Dundalk Health Center, Marcus Dieterle of Baltimore Brew reports.
LAUREL RINK A MAKESHIFT MORGUE: In a corner of northern Prince George’s County, two miles from a newly opened medical facility to treat patients infected with COVID-19, is a way station for some who have died — an ice rink, reports Bryan Sears in the Daily Record. Before the coronavirus pandemic that has claimed more than 1,000 lives in Maryland, the Gardens Ice House was home to ice skating and hockey leagues, curling clubs and birthday parties.
REDMER STEPS DOWN, NEW INSURANCE COMMISH NAMED: Maryland is getting a new regulator of insurance companies. Maryland’s insurance commissioner, Al Redmer Jr., is leaving his position to take over the state’s last-resort auto insurer, Gov. Larry Hogan announced Friday afternoon, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports. Redmer will be replaced by Kathleen Birrane, an attorney with the DLA Piper firm who was recently was appointed to the University of Maryland Medical System Board of Directors.
- Redmer has served as the state insurance commissioner during two separate appointments — most recently since January 2015, and previously from June 2003 through late 2005. He is Maryland’s longest-serving commissioner, Sean Wallace writes in the Daily Record.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR CONGRESSIONAL ELECTION? Votes have been cast, ballots, dropped and the postmarks stamped in Maryland’s mail-in special election to fill out U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings’ seat in Congress. The election was decided, but votes still may be coming in. So what are the next steps for the Board of Elections and for Kweisi Mfume, who has been tentatively declared the winner?
JONES SWORN IN AS DELEGATE: Dana Jones was sworn in as Maryland’s newest delegate Friday afternoon in Annapolis. She will represent District 30A for the next two years — the remainder of the term of Alice Cain, who resigned on Sine Die, Olivia Sanchez reports for the Capital Gazette.
CARROLL BUDGET SMALLER THAN 2019: It’s not often that Carroll County’s proposed budget is smaller than the previous year’s. At $417.6 million, the proposed fiscal year 2021 budget is $1.2 million less than the fiscal year 2020 budget, with no tax increase, reports Mary Grace Keller in the Carroll County Times..
ARUNDEL BUDGET PROJECTIONS KEEP SHRINKING: At a budget briefing two days after the coronavirus touched down in Anne Arundel County, officials were told they could expect $101 million more in revenue for the fiscal 2021 budget than they had last year. Two weeks later, that projection was nearly halved. One week after that, they were left with just $38 million over last year — a $19 million deficit for the $57 million in non-discretionary costs the budget would require, reports Olivia Sanchez for the Capital Gazette.
MARYLANDREPORTER PART OF NYTIMES PRESS FREEDOM LIST: The New York Times, in honor of UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Day, which is dedicated to raising public awareness of the vital importance of an independent press, created a database of news sources, which includes MarylandReporter, that you can access, and is encouraging people to find the local news organization you trust and to support it.
ARUNDEL, HOWARD SUE E_CIGARETTE MAKER JUUL: Anne Arundel and Howard counties sued e-cigarette maker Juul Labs and affiliated companies, joining a growing onslaught against the billion-dollar company over claims that it marketed its products to children, writes Justin Fenton for the Sun. They joined Garrett County in filing separate but identical federal lawsuits, following the lead of Montgomery County, which retained a national law firm late last year.
GUN TRACE PANEL HOLDS PRIVATE INTERVIEWS: A state commission created 18 months ago to shine light on Baltimore’s Gun Trace Task Force corruption scandal has not demanded public testimony from key police officials who could offer an inside account of the rogue unit, instead interviewing people in private. Senate President Bill Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat who pushed for the commission prior to assuming his leadership post, told The Baltimore Sun that was not acceptable, Justin Fenton of the Sun is reporting.
SNEED OUTPACES IN CASH RACE FOR B’MORE COUNCIL PREZ: Baltimore City Councilwoman Shannon Sneed has the most cash to spend in the race to be the next City Council president, and she is using it to launch the first TV ad buy among those running for the seat, writes Talia Richman for the Sun.
GROUPS UNITE TO BID ON BALTIMORE SUN: Two local foundations, a former county executive and a NewsGuild chapter are trying to put together a bid to buy The Baltimore Sun out from Tribune Publishing, Rick Edmonds of the Poynter Institute reports. The effort has some urgency. Alden Global Capital owns a third of Tribune Publishing stock and appears to be exerting pressure to slash costs. Alden’s “standstill” agreement not to buy more Tribune shares expires in June.
SUN JOURNOS OK PAY CUTS, FURLOUGHS: Dozens of unionized journalists at The Baltimore Sun voted Thursday night to take both pay cuts and furloughs amid an effort to cut costs because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The online vote was taken by the 85 members of the Washington-Baltimore News Guild, Melody Simmons reports in the Baltimore Business Journal.