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