Dear Representatives and Officials,
I am a constituent, and a resident of Chestertown, in Kent County. I appreciate and respect your service as leaders over the past two years of the covid pandemic. Thank you for the dedication, care, and long hours you have devoted and the difficult decisions you have made to keep us safe.
I’m writing today with two urgent requests, in view of the newest major surge in covid infections: First, please reinstate mask and distancing requirements. Second, please communicate frequently, fully, and through many channels with the public about the state of the pandemic. Both of these actions can be taken on the state, county, or municipal level.
CDC guidelines urge masks and distancing for areas of substantial or high community transmission, which has applied to Maryland for much of the past six months. Requiring everyone to follow the guidelines would help businesses and individuals alike by providing clarity and a coherent safety policy that does not hinder the ability to go about daily life or participate in the economy. It would give everyone the security of knowing what to expect in all public places, and enable people to live and work as normally as possible.
Currently, each individual and business has to figure out for themselves what measures are effective and appropriate, and how to apply them. Marylanders have made these decisions on their own for months, through enormous uncertainty and with wildly differing understandings of what is reasonable, prudent, and important. The result has been a feeling of escalating instability, anxiety, and entrenched polarization.
Doing a handful of errands in Chestertown yesterday, I experienced the confusion of an apparently random approach to covid precautions. One location had prominently posted “mask required” signs which were ignored by some customers and some employees, with no attempt at enforcement. Mask-wearing employees and customers alike were unsure of what they should say or do. Other businesses ranged from strict masking and distancing with one hundred percent compliance to “masks optional.” Through the windows of one shop, I could easily have been looking back in time, at a store full of unmasked shoppers and employees in December 2019, happily crowded around displays of holiday wares.
This patchwork means people can’t predict how safe or unsafe they will feel when going out to work, to socialize, or in local businesses. Those who are immunocompromised, who care for unvaccinated young children or vulnerable family members, or who simply feel cautious and anxious two years into this pandemic, are therefore reluctant to venture into public spaces. All of this hurts the small and local businesses that our economies depend on.
This brings me to my second request, for thorough and open communication. We’ve spent months making high-stakes decisions without basic information about the state of the pandemic where we live. As the Maryland Department of Health website’s data comes back online, will still need much more specific and frequent communication than we have been getting in order to understand what is happening and what we need to do.
We’re operating on an “every man for himself” basis at a time when it has never been more crucial for everyone to act in our neighbors’ best interests as well as our own, if we want to limit the human, social, and economic cost of the pandemic. Good, clear, leadership is needed at state, county, and municipal levels. You hold the responsibility, authority, and platform to provide it to your constituents, fellow citizens, and neighbors. I implore you to use it.
To: Governor Hogan
Delegates Arentz, Ghrist, and Jacobs
Commissioners Mason, Jacob, and Fithian
Council Members Shoge, Herz, Tolliver, and Efland
Mr. William Webb
Letters to Editor
John Buckley says
I feel we should make our own decisions whether we want to wear a mask or not you shouldn’t try to force us to wear a mask social distancing is the same way if that’s the case then please shut down the farmers market please shut down cars on high please shut down some of the small businesses for not following the rules that you would like to institute I feel like this is becoming a Nazi regime in whether we wear a mask or not a mask I appreciate your time
Deirdre LaMotte says
When did common decency become so rare?
Put the mask on for your fellow citizens, for God’s sake.
Patty Heaps says
Sure, these variants are getting around double-vaxxed, boostered individuals but that homemade, leopard print mask will protect you.
Janice Dickson says
Any relation to William F?
M.Q. Fallaw says
The letter writer is referring to masking and distancing INDOORS, not outdoors (except, presumably, in crowded outdoor settings, which would be very rare locally and not very common in the rest of the state, especially during cold weather).
From anecdotal accounts (the only info we have since we have had almost no detailed case or testing statistics from the state health department since about Dec. 3 due to the system’s being down), it is quite clear that the Delta variant and/or the Omicron variant are already taking quite a toll. Airborne, Omicron is highly transmissible, meaning that even very brief exposure to an infected person (who may not know it yet) can lead to a bad consequence for others.
When other people’s decisions can adversely affect others medically is when public-health policy needs to step in on behalf of the society/community, to promote the general good. It’s not a political matter. And presumably, you’ve heard this aphorism that probably dates to the 19th century, with slightly variable wording: “Your right [or freedom or liberty] ends at my nose” or “Your right to swing your arm ends at my nose.” This is commonly taught to children, who “get it.”
About Dec. 3, the state-average infection rate was about 4.xx% of those tested daily; Kent’s rate was already higher than the state’s. As of several days ago, the state rate was about 12.xx%, with no info for the county. Here’s the latest info from a local volunteer who posts covid statistics on a Facebook page that is widely shared to other local FB pages:
“Per the state our positivity rate is 17.19[%] as of 12/22
But the CDC updated today (12/24) and it’s 19.2%
Kent’s cases/100k has skyrocketed to 85.31”
The 7-day moving average case rate per 100K as of 12.22:
State rate: 64.2%
Kent rate: 85.3%
This is why the letter writer is concerned, along with many others (including me) who keep up with the news and the statistics.
Gretchen F Stroh says
Please be kind and thoughtful. Masks are the easiest way to protect each other from spreading all sorts of germs. I wear a mask to protect myself and others. Saying it’s up to an individual to wear a mask is equal to saying it’s up to an individual to wear seatbelts and carseats.
Patricia Deitz says
I am grateful for this excellent letter from one of our community’s conscientious and articulate citizens. Unfortunately the first comment in response shows the selfish and obstinate attitudes that are present among some of our fellow Kent County residents. Traffic laws are yet another of countless examples of the social accommodations we agree to use in order to protect each other. It is always worthwhile to express genuine and in this case urgent concerns, and I thank Ms. Wood for doing so.
Don E. Itall says
Proven time and time again; masks (typical paper/cloth) do next to nothing to reduce spread of ANY disease, vaccine? has done little or nothing to prevent spreading various variants; social distancing (why 6 feet, why not 60′ or 600′), same. Unless you have 4+ commodities, you’re unlikely to have any issues with covid.