MASKS ON IN SCHOOLS: Senate President Bill Ferguson Thursday applauded a State Board of Education vote to require masks for all students and staff at all of the state’s public schools, a move he and other senators had requested in a letter earlier this week, Bryan Renbaum writes for Maryland Reporter.
- The emergency regulation will require all Maryland public school students and staff to wear masks in school buildings in the coming weeks, Liz Bowie reports for the Sun. The regulation was passed by the state board of education Thursday afternoon with one dissenting vote. And with school about to start, parents are more anxious than ever, Lillian Reed and Liz Bowie report for the Sun.
- The move is intended to keep students in-person learning as schools reopen amid a surge in the highly contagious delta variant, Donna St. George observes for the Post. According to state officials, counties without a mandate as of this week included Carroll, Dorchester, Somerset and Worcester.
- Former State Sen. Gail Bates was the only vote against the regulation, saying she did not support the “one size fits all” approach, and local jurisdictions already had the ability to require masks, Bryan Sears reports for The Daily Record.
- The regulation will now need to be approved by the General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review (AELR) before being implemented, Brianna January reports on Conduit Street, the blog for the Maryland Association of Counties.
INSPECTOR GENERAL OVERSIGHT BOARD MEETS: Describing a meeting between the Baltimore city Inspector General and an advisory board appointed to oversee the IG, Mark Reutter of Baltimore Brew writes most of the questions asked by the members of the board centered on how the office handled complaints that could be driven by political motivation and little on finding waste, fraud and abuse.
- Baltimore City Inspector General Isabel Mercedes Cumming defended her office’s work investigating complaints of waste, fraud and abuse and criticized the composition of the advisory board tasked with evaluating her job performance during a meeting Wednesday, Emily Sullivan reports for WYPR.
- Mayor Brandon Scott danced around a question of whether the makeup of the board should include elected officials, Mikenzie Frost reports for WBFF.
FAMOUS MANATEE CHESSIE RESCUED: Chessie, a manatee made famous when he was the first to be tracked in the Chesapeake Bay, was rescued this winter by Florida wildlife officials, Jeremy Cox reports for the Bay Journal News Service and re-published on Maryland Reporter. Record numbers of manatees have died this year due to seagrass shortage, and Chessie was suffering from malnutrition and pneumonia.
MOCO HEALTH OFFICER LEAVING POST FOR TELEHEALTH START-UP: Montgomery County Health Officer Travis Gayles is leaving his post to take up a new job at Hazel Health, a San Francisco-based start-up that provides telehealth services to K-12 schools, Rebecca Tan reports for the Post.
- Gayles will focus on leading the company to help combat “an alarming rise in pediatric mental health cases” since the beginning of the pandemic, Steve Bohnel reports for Bethesda Beat, noting that Gayles led the agency through the COVID pandemic. As health officer, he issued an order to close in-person learning for private schools that he later rescinded after a back-and-forth with the governor.
TOLLS NOT POPULAR WITH PUBLIC COMMENTERS: By more than 2-to-1, members of the public who submitted formal comments on Maryland’s proposed Interstate 270/I-495 express lanes plan objected to the tolls motorists would pay to use the lanes and one said the rates were “too expensive for the average driver to pay on a daily basis,” Bruce DePuyt reports for Maryland Matters.
COURT: REDUCING LIFE SENTENCES RESTS WITH GENERAL ASSEMBLY, NOT JUDGES: Maryland’s top court this week rejected a proposed Judiciary rule to give circuit court judges discretion to reduce the life sentences of convicts who committed their crimes before age 25 and who have served at least 24 years in prison, deferring such policy decisions to the General Assembly, Steve Lash reports for The Daily Record.
RAPID RISE IN COVID-19 TESTING IN WESTERN MD: Allegany County health officials reported a sharp rise Wednesday in the number of people seeking COVID-19 testing as the virus continues to surge throughout the region, the Cumberland Times-News reports.
SPOTLIGHT ON GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE GANSLER: Former Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler has had plenty of experience confronting crisis, and when he sat down with Maryland Matters to discuss his candidacy for governor he said he would confront three crises confronting the state — COVID, climate and criminal justice, Josh Kurtz writes.
TELLING THE STORY OF GRACE WISHER, INDENTURED SERVANT AND APPRENTICE TO MARY PICKERSGILL: A dispute over how to tell the story of a Baltimore girl who worked on the Star Spangled Banner shows the struggle of telling a more inclusive history, Colin Campell reports for the Sun.
HOWARD COMMUNITY COLLEGE REDUCES STUDENT DEBT: Howard Community College has paid the outstanding debt of over 2,000 students with $1.64 million in federal CARES money, Allana Haynes reports for Baltimore Sun media.