Letters to the Editor: April 22, 2020

The Dorchester Banner encourages readers to share their thoughts on issues of public interest.

Shore Health preparations
I reached out to Patti Willis, a friend who is a senior vice president at the University of Maryland Shore Regional Health, because I had been receiving questions from many people concerned about how ready the medical and hospital community was for illnesses here due to COVID-19.
Below is her response to me that she authorized me to share with you. I hope that you will be reassured about all that is being done in anticipation of possible COVID-19 challenges here and throughout their system. Please feel free to share this with any groups in which you are involved so that as many people as possible are aware of what appears to be extensive preparation that Shore Regional Health has been making on behalf of this community. If you have questions, please send them to me so that I can share them with Patti for answers that I can then share with you.
Steve Rideout
Cambridge City Commissioner, Ward 1

Hello Steve
It is good to hear from you and I hope that you are doing well, staying socially distant and masked when necessary!
You and the community can be assured that UM SRH and each of its clinical locations is prepared and preparing for what is here and what is to come. It is an every day and evolving challenge, with the same well known issues here which you’ve read and heard about — supplies, especially Personal Protective Equipment, equipment including ventilators, staffing, and space to care for the sickest and the ill.
We are preparing for a possible surge starting over the next couple of weeks. Our surge plan effectively doubles our current bed capacity throughout SRH and quadruples our ICU/ventilator capacity across the system.
When and if a surge occurs, we will be equipped to handle it locally, with additional support at other UMMS hospitals if needed. We have been blessed by numerous donations of both medical grade and non-clinical masks.
Additional isolation gowns, goggles, face shields and other protective gear have been arriving. We must conserve carefully but protect our team and physicians for the road ahead.
Tents have been set up on each hospital campus which will be used to assess non-urgent/emergency patients before determining whether they will require an emergency department treatment or possible admission. Additional portable field hospitals — quite impressive! — are being brought in at each hospital to handle inpatient surge.
Our goals through all of this are to continue to provide top notch care for our communities, to keep our health care team safe and healthy and to work diligently to prevent further illness and hospitalizations. Our community partners, including EMS, health departments, law enforcement, schools, social services and faith organizations, are helping us immeasurably and we are grateful for their support.
We stay connected multiple times daily with each of the local health departments by providing them with a daily dashboard report on hospital patients with COVID-19, bed capacity relative to surge and supplies and equipment inventories for all of SRH.
Thank you, mayor and council and your citizens for all they are doing to help keep our communities safe. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if I can address any questions for you or your constituents.
Ken sends his best to you. We are staying on target with the new facility construction planning and will see things underway on site very soon. Stay well! Patti

The following is an open letter to Gov. Larry Hogan and other state officials.
Dear Governor Hogan, President Ferguson, Leader Jennings, Speaker Jones, and Leader Kipke:
As leaders from Maryland business associations, representing thousands of employers across the state, we are committed to doing our part to assist in mitigating the COVID-19 public health crisis. First and foremost, we believe that the health and safety of our members, their employees, our customers and the general public is of paramount importance and remains our top priority.
We also believe that State actions taken to address the challenges posed by the evolving COVID-19 crisis must appropriately balance public health and safety with the economic realities that our members are facing at this time. Over the course of the last several weeks, employers have responded and made many changes, partnering with Federal and State governments to assist in blunting the threat of COVID-19.
However, through these actions Maryland businesses have encountered several additional unforeseen challenges. As the State continues to respond to the evolving threat by implementing policies intended to mitigate its impact, we respectfully request that the following issues be considered.
Pre-Emption
Maryland is home to 180 different incorporated counties and municipalities, each which have the power to create and establish certain laws and regulations. Variation in local measures related to public health and safety will pose significant challenges, particularly for multi-jurisdictional employers that are already in the midst of navigating a difficult and evolving crisis situation.
In addition, this disparity creates confusion as employers struggle to understand and comply with an emerging patchwork of laws. Therefore, we urge the State to issue one set of COVID-19 rules, regulations and/or guidelines, in conjunction with the business community and local governments, in order to iron out various issues that have arisen. Further, the State should prevent the proliferation of local measures that stand to put public health at greater risk due to confusion and lack of clear guidance.
Transparency
While we recognize that the nature of this threat requires swift response and action, we must not let that undermine the foundational principles upon which public trust is built. We encourage the State to utilize our groups’ expertise and communication capabilities when promulgating, and most importantly, conveying regulations, guidelines, and resources.
We offer a unique ability to speak directly with our memberships and the broader business community. We can also be a valuable partner to the State lending our expertise to assist in mitigating the issues that will emerge as we navigate this response together. Stronger communication is absolutely necessary to ensure the best outcomes.
Flexibility
As the crisis evolves and we work toward re-starting our economy, we understand that the State will need to implement additional measures to protect the public and prevent a follow-up outbreak. The strength of Maryland’s economy is based on its diversity and includes many sectors including agriculture, manufacturing, hospitality, biotech, among others.
Each of these and the businesses within them face unique challenges that will require unique solutions and flexibility based on their needs. We urge the State to consider these needs when promulgating regulations. A one-size-fits-all approach to this crisis could be a disservice to public health and to the economy.
Liability Protection
Maryland’s businesses and other organizations are facing unprecedented challenges while assisting in the pandemic response. However, as the private sector contributes to the response, it faces liability challenges that governments do not.
As a result, private companies require protection from unreasonable exposure. One of the greatest concerns of the business community is the potential for multiple types of claims that could be brought against those designated as “essential,” as well as other sectors once the economy begins to reopen.
The threat of exposure-related litigation is likely to deter some businesses from reopening after it is determined that they could safely do so by following the guidance of authorities.
As the crisis subsides, Maryland’s businesses will require liability protection to reopen the economy and resume activities. Therefore, we urge the State to consider such liability protection through Executive Order to ensure that emergency response and recovery is not unnecessarily hampered by lawsuits and other costly claims.
In conclusion, we believe that our welcomed participation in the decision-making process moving forward will minimize confusion and ensure the best outcomes for our State. This will allow businesses to provide input, seek clarity, and result in the robust and effective policies necessary to protect our employees and the general public.
Maryland Chamber of Commerce
NFIB – Maryland
Maryland Retailers Association
American Council of Engineering Companies-MD
American Property Casualty Insurance Association
Maryland Association of CPAs
Md. Building Industry Association
Md. Hotel and Lodging Association
Md. Motor Truck Association
Maryland Society of Accounting and Tax Professionals
Maryland Tech Council
Mid-Atlantic Petroleum Distributors Association
NAIOP-Commercial Real Estate Development Assoc.–Md. Chapter
Washington, Maryland, and Delaware Service Station and Automotive Repair Association