Dr. Salmon: Schools closed until May 15

ANNAPOLIS — Superintendent of Maryland Public School Dr. Karen Salmon announced at a press conference Friday afternoon that she was extending the closure of the state’s public schools until May 15. In the meantime, educators will consider plans for summer and online programs to help keep students safe from infection by the COVID-19 virus.

“State and local school officials are preparing for multiple scenarios,” she said. “We’re looking more toward summer learning.”

Dr. Salmon recognized the disappointment this posed for many, including high school seniors and their families, who have been worried that graduation celebrations will not occur. Local officials have been working on creative plans for recognition, including virtual events, she said.

It appears, though, that traditional graduation ceremonies are unlikely this spring, while questions remain about the progress of the pandemic. “We don’t know what’s going to happen,” Dr. Salmon said.

Soon after hearing the news, Cambridge-South Dorchester High School Media Specialist Sandy Correa Shaw posted online, “Kudos to the Maryland State Department of Education, and Karen Salmon, for deciding to announce school closure for just a few weeks at a time and keeping teachers, students and families hopeful that we can be together for a normal end of the year. Better to make an ‘incremental’ decision, instead of a radical one. Whether we can go back or not…I think it’s smarter to give people hope and not jump ahead too soon.”

Dr. Salmon’s remarks came during a press conference called by Gov. Larry Hogan, who provided the latest numbers on the virus in Maryland. As of Friday morning, there were 11,572 confirmed cases in the state, an increase of 788 in the previous 24 hours. Deaths from coronavirus reached 425, 33 since the same time Thursday. The governor said an item of good news was that the number of Marylanders who have recovered from the virus rose by 22 percent this week. Since the beginning of the emergency, 736 patients have been released from isolation.

Gov. Hogan thanked the Trump Administration for money and equipment sent to the state. As the chairperson of the National Governors’ Association, Mr. Hogan said he and the other state executives have requested additional stimulus funds from the federal government, to head off further damage to the states’ economies.

He asked the president to lead a resolution of the disputes taking place in the U.S. Senate, which are delaying the release of additional stimulus money. “Now is not the time for partisan politics,” Gov. Hogan said.
In a nod to the Trump Administration’s plans for reopening workplaces, “Our team is reviewing these guidelines and recommendations,” Gov. Hogan said. But with Maryland’s numbers of positive cases increasing, he said the federal plan could not be implemented yet.

Criteria in the Administration’s plan require, for instance, that a 14-day period be observed after the numbers of positive cases begin to decrease; after the numbers of Intensive Care Unit admissions decrease; and after the number of deaths begins to decrease.

As more tests become available and testing procedures ramp up, the total of positive cases will keep climbing, meaning that even if states follow the Washington plan, things won’t begin opening for some time.
In response to a question from a reporter regarding claims that social distancing and the wearing of masks or face coverings are a violation of an individual’s rights, Gov. Hogan said, “This isn’t about your rights, or protecting yourself. It’s about protecting your neighbors as well. Spreading the disease infringes on your neighbors’ rights.”

Other topics touched upon briefly:
• The state has received applications for about 30,000 business loans and grants.
• Moves are being made to decrease phone waits for unemployment insurance payments.
• The state is sending an additional $8 million to food banks.
• Recognizing that this is the “Week of the Young Child,” Gov. Hogan said this is an especially confusing time for many of Maryland’s youngest citizens, who are struggling to understand the changes in their own lives and schedules.