As coronavirus spreads, officials find ways to adapt
By Aneurin Canham-Clyne and Sophie Gorman Oriani
As the novel coronavirus spreads throughout the D.C. metro area, city and county officials are scrambling to find ways to adapt. On March 30, Governor Larry Hogan issued a stay-at-home order, citing 1,413 cases in Maryland, including a one-month-old infant.
“This is a deadly public health crisis,” said Hogan. “We are no longer asking or suggesting that Marylanders stay home. We are directing them to do so.”
On March 24, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks sent an update notifying residents that the county government was reduced to essential functions only. Essential county functions include police, fire and emergency medical services, the department of corrections among others. For the complete list, visit www.princegeorgescountymd.gov/3416/COVID-19-Related-County-Closures.
As of 2 p.m. on Apr 1, there were 403 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, in Prince George’s County according to the Maryland COVID-19 case map dashboard. The department of health has not released the number of Hyattsville residents affected, according to an Apr 2 email from Hyattsville Mayor Candace Hollingsworth, who wrote that she and other mayors in the county are concerned with the “limited data … on the impact at the local level.”
A Prince George’s County resident was the first Marylander to die from COVID-19. Thirty-one people have died in Maryland as of April 1, according to the Maryland Department of Health’s Twitter page. One of them was Terrance Burke, a counselor and basketball coach at Northwestern High School.
A new COVID-19 screening clinic has opened at FedExField in Landover. According to a March 27 press release, the screening site will only test people who meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention testing guidelines, and screening is by appointment only. For an initial required screening via telehealth, call the Prince George’s County Health Department Coronavirus hotline at 301.883.6627.
In Hyattsville, nearly all city events and meetings are canceled or postponed until at least April 27. This includes committee meetings, teen tutoring and mentoring, senior bus trips, Camp Magruder’s spring session, the easter egg hunt, the community yard sale, and the city’s anniversary carnival and parade.
Call-A-Bus services for seniors and people with disabilities will provide essential trips to grocery stores, pharmacies and medical appointments. For a Call-A-Bus ride, call 301.985.5020. Yard waste and compost will be picked up only on the first and third Mondays of the month.
Police patrols and emergency response, solid waste and recycling collections, and parking enforcement will continue. City council will continue to meet using a remote teleconference system.
On Mar 23, Hyattsville city council passed an emergency uncodified ordinance confirming “the
City Administrator’s authority to take all appropriate and reasonable actions necessary” to deal with the coronavirus crisis in the City of Hyattsville. “This is [in] large part because the situation is evolving quickly,” wrote Mayor Candace Hollingsworth in an April 2 email.
Hollingsworth has organized the Hyattsville Helps initiative to match neighbors in need with neighbors who can help them. Neighbors who need help or have help to offer can call 301.985.5020, and a member of the city staff will return the call within 24 hours. The mayor also noted that she is meeting weekly with business and community stakeholders to keep them informed.
Hollingsworth is delegating the handling of many immediate needs to city staff, while she focuses on the future recovery. “I am turning my eye toward preparing our community for intensive recovery,” she wrote. As part of this focus, Hollingsworth described how she is in conversations with local leaders in other cities across the country and is participating in the Coronavirus Local Response Initiative sponsored by Bloomberg Philanthropies, which she says has been an “excellent resource.”
Moreover, Hollingsworth has proposed a fund, proposed to be $1 million, to help Hyattsville recover from the effects of this pandemic. The city council will discuss this proposal at their April 6 meeting. “The council will work together to develop criteria for disbursement from that fund and the priorities it should address,” Hollingsworth wrote in the April 2 email.
“It is our sincere desire that we all persevere through these challenging times and continue to be an example of what a caring community truly is,” wrote Hollingsworth in a March 13 statement.
For a complete list of which Hyattsville-sponsored activities are canceled and postponed, visit http://www.hyattsville.org/788/Coronavirus-COVID-19.