State roundup: COVID tests for schools; Vaccine supply debated between state, locals

State roundup: COVID tests for schools; Vaccine supply debated between state, locals

The Lunar New Year begins the year of the ox.

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STATE WILL GIVE COVID TESTS TO SCHOOLS: In hopes of getting Maryland’s K-12 students safely back in their classrooms as soon as possible, the state will provide nearly 1 million COVID-19 tests to both public and private school systems-starting now and lasting through the end of June, Bryan Renbaum reports for Maryland Reporter.

  • The supplies will help to test symptomatic students and staff members, as well as asymptomatic people with a confirmed COVID-19 exposure, Briana Adhikusuma reports for Bethesda Beat.
  • Larry Hogan also lamented the lack of available vaccines from the federal government, and was planning to meet with President Joe Biden Friday in the Oval Office, Lillian Reed, Bryn Stole and Christine Condon report for the Sun.
  • Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner said the county has specifically requested more vaccine doses to inoculate the county’s educators, Greg Swatek reports for the Frederick News-Post.
  • In Western Maryland, plans are underway for mass COVID-19 vaccination sites, but so far, there’s not enough supply to meet demand, Teresa McMinn reports for the Cumberland Times-News.

LOCALS, STATE AT ODDS ON HOW TO DISTRIBUTE LIMITED VACCINES: Carroll County’s commissioners are questioning the state’s strategy of setting up mass vaccine clinics and pharmacies rather than sending doses to the local health departments, Bob Blubaugh reports for the Carroll County Times.

  • Montgomery County Health Officer Travis Gayles is asking for patience as the local health workers do their best to distribute vaccines even when, as late as Thursday, he did not know how many vaccines the county would get next week, Adam Pagnucco blogs for Seventh State.
  • Hogan described the state’s plans as creating a broad infrastructure so they can vaccinate more people as supply grows, Madeleine O’Neill reports for the USA Today Network. “We need more damn vaccines,” he said.
  • And he rebuffed a request from county leaders that vaccines should go to health departments before state run sites and pharmacies, Briana Adhikusuma reports for Bethesda Beat. “That is absurd and simply not a realistic way to vaccinate millions of people all across the state,” Hogan said.
  • Hogan also announced that the state was instructing counties to hire or appoint “equity officers” to try to address vaccine hesitancy issues, The Easton Star Democrat

COVID-19 RELIEF PLAN INCLUDING IMMIGRANTS: Maryland House Democrats are moving forward to expand eligibility for Gov. Larry Hogan’s covid-19 stimulus plan by including noncitizens who pay taxes, Ovetta Wiggins and Erin Cox report for the Post. But their plan is receiving pushback from Hogan, who said it could jeopardize passage of the legislation that has already passed the Senate.

  • The disagreement over immigrants threatens to scuttle the otherwise bipartisan agenda, Madeleine O’Neill reports for the USA Today Network.
  • The amendment would allow payments to ITIN filers, which include undocumented immigrants as well as some people lawfully present in the U.S. More than 86,000 ITIN filers paid more than $100 million in state and local taxes last year, reports Bennett Leckrone for Maryland Matters.
  • The change will at least delay, if not derail, the bill that had been on the fast track to passage, Bryan Sears reports for The Daily Record.

GBMC, AAMC OFFER VACCINES TO BOARDS: The news that two Maryland hospital systems have offered COVID-19 vaccines to all of their board members, has raised questions about the ethics of giving board members vaccines during an ongoing shortage, Colin Campbell, Nathan Ruiz and Daniel Ohl.

  • Larry Hogan Friday blasted area hospitals who might be skirting state guidelines by providing board members and others access to coronavirus vaccinations based on their relationship with the medical facility rather than being eligible under the current state plan, Bryan Sears reports for The Daily Record. Hogan asked for more information, calling it “absolutely wrong” for people not eligible to get vaccines.

HOUSE OVERRIDES TAX VETO: Democrats in the Maryland House of Delegates voted 88-48 Thursday to override Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of a controversial bill creating a new tax on digital advertising services despite a major push by a coalition of pro-business advocacy groups,” Holden Wilen reports for the Baltimore Business Journal.

  • The Senate is expected to take it up Friday, Rachel Baye reports for WYPR. The bill also includes an increase on the tobacco tax.

COMMENTARY: TOBACCO TAX RAISE WOULD SAVE LIVES: By overriding Gov. Hogan’s veto of the first tobacco tax increase in 13 years, the General Assembly can save lives, improve health, and boost our economy, Lauren Hale of the American Heart Association writes in Maryland Reporter. “It’s an opportunity they must not pass up,” especially as everyone makes major changes to protect their lungs during the time of COVID-19.

POLICE REFORM ADDRESSES USE OF FORCE: A proposed bill in the General Assembly would add new requirements to the use of force requirements for police in the state, playing a major role in police reform, Jacob Steinberg reports for the Capital News Service.

LAW ENFORCEMENT BILL OF RIGHTS REPEAL LIKELY: One major component of police reform – repealing the Law Enforcement Officer Bill of Rights— appears to be gaining traction, with the key fight in Annapolis being not whether to repeal it but what to replace it with, Bryn Stole reports for the Sun.

BACKGROUND CHECKS FOR RIFLES, SHOTGUNS: Overriding the governor’s veto, the Maryland General Assembly approved a background check requirement for all sales and transfers of rifles and shotguns, Pamela Wood reports for the Sun.

BALTIMORE POLICE CHANGE PROPOSED BY SENATOR: Baltimore City is the only jurisdiction in Maryland without direct control over its own police force, but a new bill sponsored by Sen. Cory McCray (D-Baltimore City) could change that and make it a city agency, Marcus Dieterle reports for Baltimore Fishbowl.

CHALLENGING HOYER: Mckayla Wilkes will challenge U.S. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer again the next primary, Brooks Dubose reports for the Capital Gazette. The 30-year0old black progressive Democrat received 26% of the vote in 2020, compared to 64% for Hoyer.

WITH 1.6 MILLION CLAIMS, UNEMPLOYMENT COMMUNICATION ISSUES REMAIN: The increase in unemployment claims has resulted in about 28,000 people calling the state’s unemployment hotline every day, reports Eddie Kadhim, who gives a deep dive on lack of communication in the process for WMAR.

COMMENTARY: SCHOOLS DECISIONS POLITICAL: Dr. Carol Vidal, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins University, writes for Maryland Matters that the costs of school closures have been many, and accumulated research on safety indicates the best decision is to reopen schools. But in Maryland, teachers unions are the leading state lobbyists. “As if children did not matter, or at least, not as much, we have insisted on seeing the world from the eyes of adults with political power,” she writes. “Are PAC donations worth the cost of not only disappointing your own voters, but more importantly, damaging the lives of our most vulnerable members of society?”

ADDRESSING PERIOD POVERTY: An Annapolis state senator is hoping to address “period poverty” and give access to free menstrual products to children in school bathrooms, rather than requiring them to visit the school health room, Olivia Sanchez reports for the Capital Gazette.

About The Author

Meg Tully

Contributing Editor Meg Tully has been covering Maryland politics for more than five years. She has worked for The Frederick News-Post, where she reported during the General Assembly session in Annapolis. She has also worked for The (Hanover) Evening Sun and interned at Baltimore Magazine. Meg has won awards from the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association for her state and county writing, and a Keystone Press Award for feature writing from the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association. She is a graduate of Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. If you have additional questions or comments contact Meg at:

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