NO HOLIDAY FOR VACCINE DISTRIBUTION: Vaccine distribution during the week between Christmas and New Years is not slowing down for the holidays, Bryan Renbaum reports for Maryland Reporter on Phase 1A of distribution. Enough vaccines are available to inoculate 100% of the state’s frontline hospital staff, and health departments are offering vaccines this week to the state’s first responders.
- The Carroll County Health Department announced the COVID-19 deaths of five more Carroll countians, and on the same day the health department also announced it will begin vaccinating some first responders and high-risk health care workers this week, Bob Blubaugh reports for the Carroll County Times.
- More Marylanders are hospitalized than at the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitalization numbers continuing to set records throughout December, Marcus Dieterle reports for Baltimore Fishbowl. As of Monday, 1,738 Marylanders were hospitalized.
LAWMAKERS, ADVOCATES PUT FORWARD EVICTIONS PROPOSAL: As the pandemic continues on with economic consequences, Maryland housing advocates and lawmakers on Monday laid out a series of proposals for stemming the ongoing housing crisis and expanding emergency eviction protections, Angela Roberts reports for the Sun.
- A $2 trillion coronavirus relief and federal spending package that President Donald Trump signed on Monday includes $25 billion in rental assistance and extends a federal eviction moratorium through the end of January, the AP reports. But Maryland’s proposal would do more, including a ban on eviction filings other than those with an “imminent threat” until April 2022.
- The proposals look to expand emergency protections for renters— closing the “lease termination loophole” in Gov. Larry Hogan’s Executive Order on eviction that allows landlords not to renew leases, as well as the CDC’s expiring order — and establishes a state rental assistance fund, Kelly Powers reports for the Salisbury Daily Times. The emergency protections would also preclude late fees, interest charges and rent increases.
- Adam Skolnik, the executive director of the Maryland Multihousing Association, pushed back on the legislation and said more regulations will make the cost of business higher for landlords, who will raise prices, Bennett Leckrone reports for Maryland Matters. Instead, he urged the state to use the entire $400 million in federal funding for tenants having trouble paying rent.
- Housing advocates said nearly 30% of Maryland families earning less than $50,000 couldn’t pay their rents last month, Kate Ryan reports for WTOP.
ANNE ARUNDEL DINING HEARING CONTINUES: A temporary restraining order on a ban of restaurant dining in Anne Arundel County remains in effect as a judge hears a second day of testimony on the issue, Bryan Sears reports for The Daily Record.
- County executive Steuart Pittman is scheduled to testify Tuesday after restaurant owners argued he does not have the authority to prohibit indoor dining, nor to restrict eating outdoors at restaurants by requiring 50% of tent flaps to be up, David Collins reports for WBAL-TV.
EHRLICH ON LOCAL STAGE, BUT EYES STILL ON NATIONAL SCENE: Former Gov. Bob Ehrlich spoke at a rally for Anne Arundel County restaurant owners, the second local issue he’s waded into in recent months, Pamela Wood reports for the Sun. Ehrlich had also spoken about the need to return to sports, but says his interest is in staying involved in national politics and reshaping the Republican Party post-Trump.
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HARRIS VOTES AGAINST $2,000 CHECKS: The House of Representatives voted Monday to increase COVID-19 relief to $2,000 checks for Americans, Laura Olson reports for Maryland Matters. President Donald Trump had called for the increase from $600 when he threatened not to sign the relief legislation, though he ultimately signed it. Maryland’s lone Republican in Congress, Rep. Andrew Harris voted against the bill to raise relief payments. It now heads to the Senate, where Republicans had balked at increased amounts for the stimulus.
DELAY POSSIBLE IN UNEMPLOYMENT BOOST: The relief bill had called for a $300 weekly boost to unemployment benefits, but that may be delayed because of Trump’s delay in signing the bill, Mikenzie Frost reports for WBFF.
BALTIMORE COUNTY SCHOOL REOPENING UP IN THE AIR: Baltimore County Public Schools had planned to reopen for hybrid learning this semester, but there is still a lot of uncertainty about whether that will happen, John Lee reports for WYPR. The school system is also still recovering from a Nov. 24 ransomware attack.
COMMENTARY:STOP THE SPREAD AND OPEN THE SCHOOLS:As the battle to close restaurants in some counties rages in courts, an op-ed column in the Sun asks why restaurants and bars are allowed to remain open while schools are forced to close. School systems are being asked to consider opening in an environment where they have little control, write Daniela C. Rodriguez and Michelle Kaufman. “Governor Hogan needs to take the necessary measures to control COVID-19 spread in Maryland right away to curb our epidemic and create the conditions necessary for our kids to get back in the classroom,” the pair write.
HOWARD ANTIBODY TESTING SHOWS FEW EMPLOYEES INFECTED: Antibody testing in first responders in Howard County showed that precautions and workplace protections are working, with less than 2% showing signs they had been infected with COVID-19, a percentage that was lower than confirmed virus cases in the larger community, Alison Knezevich reports for the Sun.
COMMENTARY: MILLER SAVING THE PURPLE LINE: Blogger Adam Pagnucco of Seventh State reminisces about the important role longtime Senate President Mike Miller had in keeping the Purple Line project alive for Montgomery County – coming through as the first and loudest voice for funding that literally kept the project from getting killed by federal funders looking for evidence of a state match. “He wouldn’t let it go and he publicly took on a sitting governor from his own party to get the money,” Pagnucco writes. “Having Miller in our corner gave us a fighting chance even when it looked like we would lose.”
COMMENTARY: KEEP THE AFRO: Brandon Scott’s afro has attracted a lot of buzz, but the Sun editorial board opines that politicos should stop asking the mayor about his hair, and instead focus on policy issues. After all, the state recently enacted legislation making it easier for everyone to be their true selves without discrimination based on a hair cut. And the board likes that Scott has pushed against “what a traditional mayor should look like.”
SPY PLANES ON THE WAY OUT? Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott does not plan for the surveillance plane to continue to patrol Baltimore, Emily Opilo reports for the Sun.
REPLACING MOSBY BEGINS: Democratic leaders in Baltimore will meet Tuesday to select a new person to serve in the House of Delegates, but it is just the first step in the process, Pamela Wood reports for the Sun. The Baltimore City Democratic State Central Committee will consider 15 people to fill the seat vacated when Nick Mosby was sworn in as city council president.