Howard County Councilmember David Yungmann sent the following letter to Howard County Executive Calvin Ball on May 14th:

Dear County Executive Ball,

I write you today to express my serious concerns for the displaced employees, business owners and taxpayers of Howard County. When this letter was written earlier today, you were fully rejecting participation in the Governor’s Roadmap to Recovery. Today’s late afternoon change in course has left me even more frightened, as it appears to demonstrate an overwhelming reluctance to allow any meaningful level of in person commerce or interaction. If ten people cannot be trusted to walk around a clothes store, how far behind will Howard County be when the Governor moves onto Stage Two reopening of restaurants?

You have justified these decisions with claims that lack factual or anecdotal support, despite stating that moves are data-informed. There remains little information on what your Administration has done independently to achieve the four goals or when you expect to have them achieved. The county’s own website publishes useless data on total cases that even health experts have stated is irrelevant compared to current daily hospital census, positive/negative tests and surge capacity/utilization. A lack of transparency exists in terms of useful local data, progress toward the four goals and predictability for stakeholders.

Based on the limited local data we can see, Howard County has some of the lowest per capita COVID activity in the region and is even ahead of some rural counties. After isolation of nursing home cases, the data is even better. We also appear to have ample supplies and hospital capacity. If that data is even close to correct, we are in a far different position than the other Big 8 jurisdictions that are choosing to not start the reopening process.

In an order to provide better information to the public and to back up the stated justifications to keep Howard County closed for business, please provide the following data:

1. Daily acute and ICU utilization (COVID vs all other) for the past 45 days (HCGH).

2. ICU and acute bed capacity both permanent and surge; separate COVID vs all other if capacity cannot be co-mingled (HCHG)

3. Per capita comparison of acute census, ICU census, ratio of positive/negative test results and deaths
compared to the other Big 8.

There are also many statements and contradictions that deserve some clarification.

1. What legal night(s) governs your authority to unilaterally keep businesses closed?

2. Both your 5/13 press release and the RISE report state that we need to be testing 6,500 per week. How does that reconcile with the 2,575 referenced in the HoCo RISE report and both national and state targets?

3. When did the goal of flattening the curve morph into looking for a 14-day decline as suggested in your 5/13 press release?

4. What changed in the 24 hours between the 5/13 statement that Howard does not have the needed PPE and the HoCo RISE report that we have achieved the goal of 30 days in PPE?

5. Is there any evidence to support the claim from your 5/13 press release stating: “…. however, these testing kits will likely go to larger jurisdictions first.”

6. Tracing positions:

a. Why do we only have 11 of 45 tracing positions filled when over 25,000 county residents are now unemployed, and a slew of college graduates are now home without jobs?

b. Why does a search on Google or the county website using any variation of Howard County COVID tracing jobs never lead to a place where I can apply for that job?

7. What specific actions has the Administration taken on its own to accomplish the four goals?

8. What is the estimated date of completion for each of the four goals?

9. What specific requests have been made to the State for any PPE, bed capacity, tests or contact tracers (dates, what was requested, who responded to the request, what was outcome)

10. Does Howard County have its own reopening plan that explains what will occur in each stage and the qualifiable metrics to start each stage?

I am careful to not Monday morning quarterback how we got here. I supported the extension of your State of Emergency two months ago and am at peace with that vote. The lack of progress on the mitigation goals and the failure to position Howard County for reopening is disappointing.

Since so many members of the public are anxiously awaiting some clarity on the above issues, I request that all information be delivered to my office no later than Wednesday May 20. Along with my council office and hundreds of stakeholders, I am personally available to support whatever efforts are needed to get information out to the public and accelerate reopening.

David Yungmann
Howard County Council

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I used an OCR program to convert the image to text for the letter above…hopefully there are no typos. Just in case…here are the images of the letter that were shared on Facebook LATE yesterday:

I will keep an eye out for a public response to this letter from the County Executive or his staff.

I have to say that after listening to the Town Hall hosted by the County Executive and watching the recent press releases I had many questions as it relates to the data. The biggest questions I had related to HoCo Rise was this:

Howard County’s reopening framework, HoCo RISE uses data to inform decision-making around reopening and, if necessary, when to reinstitute restrictions:

1. The number of new cases.

2. The number of new hospitalizations.

3. The number of patients admitted to ICU.

4. The number of tests conducted.

5. The amount of available PPE.

6. Surge capacity at Howard County General Hospital (HCGH).

Items 2, 3 and 4 would be nice to have on the Howard County COVID-19 dashboard. As you can see from this screenshot that information is not listed or updated daily today for the public:

This is something I will continue to watch closely.

Scott E

2 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for posting Councilman Youngman’s letter–excellent questions. I just wrote to my council person with my concerns and she said that the county council has no authority in these measures and policies. My question to her was who IS responsible? Ridiculous.

  2. AMEN – David Yungmann thank you for speaking up for the people! This is a completely new situation none of us have had to deal with (or prepare for) in the past. While it’s important for us to always consider everyone’s lives, health and wellness, I strongly believe more people are suffering mentally and financially staying at home right now, than the people affected in our county by COVID-19. This will only escalate the longer businesses stay closed. I feel like every month closed is equivalent to an extra year+ recovery time from this pandemic. But choosing to live scared or to be scared of making a decision that could possibly cost life (which it will regardless), as I believe County Executive Calvin Ball is doing now is absolutely unacceptable! He needs to make decisions for the people he represents, not what he thinks is best or what will save his position in the future.

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