VACCINATION EFFORTS STILL SLOW, SHOW RACIAL DISPARITY: The rate of COVID-19 vaccinations continues at a tedious pace, so slow that one Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health expert said Thursday it’s not yet possible to see a difference in the course of the pandemic, Jayne Miller reports for WBALTV. The vaccination efforts so far show a racial disparity,with just 14.6 of the state’s Black population vaccinated.
- The Carroll County Commissioners are questioning the decision to move forward with plans to vaccinate those over 65 and essential workers before they’ve vaccinated all the people over 75, Yasmine Askari reports for the Carroll County Times. About 11,000 Carroll residents are over 75, but only 520 have been vaccinated and another 500 were scheduled to be vaccinated Thursday.
- Anne Arundel Executive Steuart Pittman spoke with Gov. Larry Hogan for the first time in two years on Thursday, and the two discussed vaccine planning in what he hopes will be the beginning of more communication between the leaders as they fight this threat, Olivia Sanchez reports for the Capital Gazette.
COMMENTARY: SLOW VACCINE START GIVES OPPORTUNITY FOR CHANGE: Maryland is ranking low among states in administrating vaccines, but it has an opportunity to learn from initial efforts and make improvements to the vaccine distribution process, Donna Chaney writes in Maryland Reporter. She offers six steps that will be critical, such as methodical use of technologies, population estimates and community outreach.
GOP WANTS PRIVATE SCHOOL VOUCHERS FOR STUDENTS IN ALL VIRTUAL DISTRICTS: Maryland House Republicans are looking to lessen the burdens of virtual learning, James Whitlow reports for The Aegis. The caucus is proposing a slate of educational bills that would increase support for special needs students and redirect state education dollars to allow parents to send their children to private schools if public schools do not reopen by fall.
- Republicans are advocating for a new form of school voucher for students stuck at home, Rachel Baye reports for WYPR.
- Full details of the proposal and other bills in the legislative package were not immediately available nor was a copy of the bill, which is expected to be filed with the House of Delegates by Friday, Bryan Sears reports for The Daily Record. It also isn’t clear if private schools could absorb an influx of students.
- In Howard County, Superintendent Michael Martirano said vaccinating all teachers and staff will not be a “prerequisite” to return to some form of in-person learning on March 1, Jacob Calvin Meyer and Ana Faguy report for Baltimore Sun media.
- Montgomery County Public Schools will soon present a new reopening plan that aims to bring “very small” groups of students in programs like special education or career and technology education back into schools by the end of February, reacting to pressure from state leaders, Caitlynn Peetz reports for Bethesda Beat.
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LEVERAGING INVESTMENT & ADVANCING CLEAN ENERGY INNOVATION: This virtual panel discussion will examine creative approaches to financing energy solutions, innovation in the advanced energy space, and access to capital to expand economic development in Maryland. Join the Maryland Clean Energy Center for this Policy Watch Session on February 1, from 1:00 – 2:00 PM, with a special focus on opportunities for Green Banks, and Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Legislation. Advance registration is required.
LIFTING RESTRICTIONS: Gov. Larry Hogan announced Thursday that coronavirus metrics are improving and restaurants will be able to stay open past 10 p.m., Greg Swatek and Erika Riley report for the Frederick News-Post. But local governments need to OK the move, and Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner is still reviewing the order.
- The 10 p.m. curfew has been in place since mid-November, when Hogan announced a series of restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the raging pandemic, Madeleine O’Neill reports for the USA Today Network.
- Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman is relaxing restrictions there, allowing restaurants, places of worship and retail establishments to operate at 50% capacity, The Business Monthly reports. Citing a sharp, steady drop in COVID-19 case rates, he also opened movie theaters, pool halls and bingo halls at 25% capacity.
- Pittman’s move was to reopen was in contrast to what he usually does, which is go in the opposite direction of Hogan in a game of political “one-upsmanship,” The Eye on Annapolis blog comments in its daily news briefing. The 10 p.m. curfew on restaurants will be lifted Monday.
SENATOR RIPS BILL FOR POTENTIALLY ‘BANKRUPTING’ POLICE: Sen. Chris West (R-Baltimore County) said he has serious concerns about legislation that would provide both criminal and civil penalties for police officers who decline to intervene when their fellow officers use excessive force against a suspect, Bryan Renbaum reports for Maryland Reporter.
MD RELIEF FUNDING BILL MOVING FAST: Maryland state senators are moving forward an expanded $1 billion pandemic financial aid package that would send payments to low-income residents, offer tax breaks to businesses and direct extra funding to programs such as food banks, mass transit and support for people with disabilities, Pamela Wood reports for the Sun.
MORE ON MIZEUR CHALLENGE TO HARRIS: Del. Heather Mizeur (D) announced Thursday she will seek to unseat six-term U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, the lone Republican in the state’s congressional delegation, Jeff Barker reports for the Sun.
- Mizeur, a former state delegate who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2014, cited the Republican congressman’s behavior in the aftermath of the assault on the Capitol in her announcement, Meagan Flynn reports for the Post.
MORE ON JAIN FOR GOVERNOR: Ashwani Jain, a former Obama administration official and candidate for Montgomery County Council, is the second to announce he is running for governor, and the first person of color running, in what is expected to be a crowded race, Ovetta Wiggins reports for the Post.
MFUME SHARES PERSONAL RECOUNTING OF CAPITOL VIOLENCE: Rep. Kweisi Mfume, D-Baltimore, said the first thing that ran through his mind was survival as protesters stormed the U.S. Capitol earlier this month, Sean Yoes reports for AFRO. He immediately got into an elevator, went underground and sheltered in place at his office when the alarms started sounding. “…It was unlike anything I had ever seen before and just crazy,” Mfume said. “Words have consequences and we’ve been saying that for years, everybody has based on the words of Donald Trump…now we see what happens when it gets out of control.”
BILL AIMS TO CURB GOVERNOR’S EMERGENCY POWERS: A Republican delegate is pushing the General Assembly to reduce the powers of the governor during a state of emergency, saying Marylanders have been living on the edge of a “dictatorship for the past 10 months,” Hannah Gaskill reports for Maryland Matters. Del. Daniel Cox (R-Frederick) presented the bill to the House Government and Operations Committee Thursday.
MAKING BROADBAND AVAILABLE: Maryland lawmakers are considering legislation that would make broadband internet available across the state, addressing inequities in some areas without it, Jack Hogan reports for the Capital News Service.
FEDERAL COURT VACANCIES TO BE FILLED BY BIDEN: There are three federal judge vacancies in Maryland, allowing President Joe Biden to put his stamp on the bench of the U.S. District Court of Maryland, Jeff Barker reports for the Sun.