LEGISLATIVE AUDIT TO PROBE KOREAN TEST KIT PURCHASE: A state legislative audit will evaluate the Hogan administration’s acquisition of COVID-19 tests from a South Korean company, plus the purchase of masks and ventilators from a politically connected vendor, Christine Condon reports for the Sun.
- A Maryland official acknowledged publicly Wednesday, for the first time, that none of the 500,000 coronavirus tests the state purchased from South Korea in April were used to diagnose whether people had the virus, Steve Thompson of the Post reports.
2,200 NEW COVID CASES, 42 MORE DEATHS: A day after Gov. Larry Hogan said that Maryland is not yet near the pandemic’s peak, the state reported 2,220 new coronavirus cases and 42 new deaths tied to COVID-19, the most deaths reported in one day since early June, Ben Leonard of the Sun reports.
- Frederick County reported its highest daily increase of confirmed COVID-19 cases by a wide margin Wednesday, Greg Swatek of the Frederick News-Post is reporting. The 174 cases reported by the Frederick County Health Department easily surpassed the previous high (118) that was recorded on Nov. 25 and brings the overall number of confirmed cases in Frederick County to 7,123.
- Deaths from COVID-19 in Garrett County doubled in the past week, bringing the total to eight, Joseph Hauger of the Garrett Republican reports. Since Nov. 24, five people have died from complications from the virus, according to the Garrett County Health Department. Three of those cases were men in their 70s and 80s. Data was not available for the other two victims.
SCHOOL PLANS FOR JANUARY: Maryland’s state schools superintendent announced in July that schools should set a goal of returning students to classrooms by the end of the year, but allowed districts to make their own decision on virtual vs. in-person instruction when fall classes begin. McKenna Oxenden of the Sun outlines what each district is planning.
- Carroll County public school students could be back in buildings for hybrid learning on Jan. 7 and winter high school sports practice will begin Dec. 14, Kristen Griffith of the Carroll County Times reports. Carroll County Board of Education members voted unanimously during Wednesday’s meeting to set Jan. 7 as the tentative date to return to hybrid, assuming key metrics are back within Maryland State Department of Education guidelines.
MOST PPP LOANS IN STATE WERE FOR LESS THAN $150,000: A vast majority of PPP loans approved in Maryland — about 85% — were for less than $150,000. They account for just a quarter of the total dollars approved in the state, Holden Wilen of the Baltimore Business Journal reports.
BOP OKs SOMERSET NATURAL GAS PIPELINE: The Maryland Board of Public Works voted Wednesday to approve a key environmental license for an Eastern Shore pipeline project that would extend natural gas service to Somerset County, Christine Condon of the Sun reports.
- The nearly 7-mile portion of pipeline connecting Wicomico to Somerset counties will ultimately enable the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and the Eastern Correctional Institute to move to cleaner fuels to provide power to their facilities, Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports.
- Supporters of the pipeline pointed to the economic injustice that Somerset has faced for decades as one of the three counties in the state that does not have access to natural gas, Elizabeth Shwe of Maryland Matters reports. The county, which is 41% Black and the poorest county in the state, has lost out on many economic opportunities because of this, local leaders told Board of Public Works members.
SEN. MILLER TO RETURN TO ANNAPOLIS: Sen. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) says he will be in Annapolis in January 2021, just like he has been for for the last half century. The long-serving and much-admired Senate president emeritus, who turns 78 Thursday, relinquished the gavel he held for 33 years in 2019. He is often in pain these days, due to the ravages of metastatic Stage 4 prostate cancer. And he has trouble getting around. But he insists his mind and his desire to serve are as keen as ever, Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters writes.
OPINION: REDUCE POLICE ENCOUNTERS: Gabriela Sevilla and Christopher Dews write in a column for Maryland Matters that many bills to be introduced to the state legislature in January focus on the important issue of police reform – which has received much deserved attention in recent months. But a critical issue of police reform is rarely addressed – reducing the number police encounters with the public in the first place.
TOP BA CO OFFICIAL: DON’T PAY CYBER RANSOM: A top Baltimore County official has warned school administrators not to pay ransom to the cyber-criminals who infected the Baltimore County Public Schools computer network last week, pointing out the group could be on a federal government watch list, Ann Costantino reports in Baltimore Brew.
MD SIGNS SISTER STATE PACT WITH FRENCH REGION: Maryland’s ties with a region in northern France were strengthened on Wednesday with the signing of a Sister State agreement by Gov. Larry Hogan and Hauts-de-France region president Xavier Bertrand. The memorandum of understanding was signed at ceremonies that took place both at the French Ambassador’s residence in Washington, D.C, and the U.S. Embassy in Paris, Bryan Renbaum of MarylandReporter writes.
VAN HOLLEN SIGNS ON TO NIXING CHATTEL SLAVERY LANGUAGE: National lawmakers including U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland introduced a joint resolution Wednesday aimed at striking language from the U.S. Constitution that enshrines chattel slavery as a punishment for crime in America’s foundational documents, Aaron Morrison of the AP reports.
WA CO TARGETS EATERIES, FIRST RESPONDERS FOR PANDEMIC CASH: Mike Lewis of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail reports that some two dozen restaurants, as well as municipalities and fire and EMS companies, will receive some pandemic-related money after actions by the Washington County commissioners Tuesday. The money will come from what’s remaining of the county’s share of federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funds that must be used by Dec. 30.
MO CO MAY AID ‘STREETERIES’ TO STAY OPEN IN WINTER: As the temperature drops but COVID-19 cases rise, Montgomery County wants to help businesses keep their doors open and operate safely during the pandemic. A fund with $1.25 million from federal aid money might help, Briana Adhikusuma of Bethesda Beat reports. The county is considering using that money to give outdoor “streeteries” — blocked-off streets filled with tables and chairs for patrons to eat outdoors — tools to prepare for operating during winter, such as heaters.
MENTAL HEALTH CARE IN TIME OF COVID: As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases continue to rise in Prince George’s County, a forum emphasized one integral part of a person’s well-being that must be protected: mental health, William Ford reports for the Washington Examiner. “One of the things we found when COVID-19 hit is by no stretch of the imagination does technology serve as an adequate replacement for true, genuine, authentic physical interaction,” said Ninah Jackson, a senior at Oxon Hill High School and student member of the county school board.