Howard County Officials and Community Leaders Address Coronavirus Response
Today, County Executive Calvin Ball gathered County officials and community stakeholders to announce new measures in response to the coronavirus. Ball announced guidance that will limit Howard County Government meetings and events for the next 45 days and instructed County employees who are able to begin teleworking on Monday, March 16. Howard County Government also issued guidance to the public for travel and large gatherings that can be viewed here. Resources and additional information on the coronavirus, including prevention tips can be found on the County website at howardcountymd.gov/coronavirus. Video of the press conference can be viewed here. Photos can be found here.
“The most important steps we can take are mitigation measures, including canceling and postponing many County events and encouraging our residents to do the same. This is a formidable challenge, but it is critical that we work together as a community to slow the spread of this virus and protect our most vulnerable,” said Ball. “As public officials our first priority is public safety and the health and welfare of our residents, our businesses, and County Government employees.”
The Howard County Health Department is continuing to coordinate with State and Federal health officials to respond. If individuals have questions or want more information about COVID-19, please call the COVID-19 Information Line, 410-313-6284, available Monday-Friday 8am-5pm. If you are having a medical emergency, please call 911.
“We are working closely with our partners to respond to this public health crisis,” said Dr. Maura Rossman, Howard County Health Officer. “The policy enacted today by the County Executive will help to protect our most vulnerable residents and slow the spread of this virus.”
The Department of Recreation and Parks is canceling all large events and gatherings through the month of April, and canceling all programs, events, classes, and rentals, March 14 – March 29. Additionally, all indoor facilities will be closed while Howard County Public Schools are closed for the next two weeks. Closures will be evaluated on March 30th. All Parks will remain open. Participants of cancelled events, programs or tournaments will have the option of a full refund or credit. Full details can be found on the Recreation and Parks webpage.
“We will continue to work with the county administration and the local health department on best practices for keeping everyone healthy,” said Raul Delerme, Director of the Department of Recreation & Parks. “Please continue to check our website for updates on what is open and closed – including parks, rentals, historic sites, facilities, childcare, special events, tournaments and more.”
The Department of Community Resources and Services (DCRS) is canceling all group programming, activities, and events for 50+ centers, including exercise programs. All Social Day programs are suspended. Effective Monday, March 16th, all 50+ Centers will be closed in accordance with guidance from the Governor through the duration of the Maryland State of Emergency. Scheduled meal programs will be held at the following centers: Bain, Ellicott City, and North Laurel. Additional DCRS locations are being identified for food access. All home visits and center or facility-based visits are suspended. All in-person childcare training and certification classes or workshops have been suspended until further notice. When possible, these will be delivered online.
Essential DCRS services will be available by appointment for residents who need consultation via phone or web, including: The Maryland Access Line (MAP) 410-313-1234, State Health Insurance Counselors, Ombudsman Services, our Adult Guardianship Program, and for our children and families, our CARELINE – 410-313-CARE (2273). For a comprehensive list of closures and cancellations please visit the DCRS webpage.
“DCRS takes great pride in the relationships we build with our members and neighbors,” said Jacqueline Scott, Director of the Department of Community Resources and Services. “These relationships will be at the core of how we will inform, encourage and care for each other throughout this period of community response.”
Additionally, the Howard County Sheriff’s Office announced this morning that all eviction orders in Howard County will be stayed for an initial period of 15 days, to be reevaluated as new developments arise. At this time, the District Court is open for motions, hearings, and sentences. The Circuit Court and State’s Attorney’s Office will not conduct any business that requires a jury or grand jury, respectively through April 6th.
Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) will be closed Monday, March 16 – Friday, March 27 per the order of the Maryland State Superintendent. HCPSS announcements and resources regarding this closure can be found online here.
“We recognize that a two-week closure of schools will create inconveniences for many in our community and we are doing everything we can to address these concerns and provide available supports,” said Dr. Michael Martirano, Superintendent of HCPSS. “We have been working diligently for several weeks to prepare for a closure such as this. I am pleased to share that we will operate nine sites to provide “Grab N Go” meals for students and have provided instructional materials for students and families to use during this closure. I encourage families to check the HCPSS website regularly as we will be posting regular updates there.”
Howard Community College shifted Spring break to March 16-22, during which time the college will be closed, with campus access only for authorized employees. For March 23-29, credit and noncredit classes will be canceled. More details for students, faculty, and staff is forthcoming, and additional guidance can be fully viewed online here.
“I recognize that Howard Community College’s actions will impact our students, faculty, staff, and their families. However, I believe these difficult decisions are necessary for the health and safety of the college community,” said Dr. Kate Hetherington, president of Howard Community College. “The hope is that by acting now, the college will do its part to slow the spread of COVID-19.”
Furthermore, the Howard County Library System (HCLS) announced the closure of their branches from March 16-27, library staff will also work remotely during this time. For more information on the HCLS response, please visit their website.
“Howard County Library System considers the health and well-being of our customers and staff a top priority. Out of an abundance of caution, HCLS will be closed March 16 – March 27,” said Tonya Aikens, President & CEO of the Howard County Library System. “Libraries are places for shared public spaces for community learning. Our branches are consistently full with customers, especially on days when schools are closed. We are taking the responsible approach to help slow the spread of the coronavirus by closing our branches and asking our staff to work remotely.”
To stay informed on coronavirus updates, please follow social media for the Center for Disease Control, the Maryland Department of Health, the Howard County Health Department, the Howard County Government, and Howard County Executive Calvin Ball.
Watch the press conference here: