By Isaac Donsky
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
Gov. Larry Hogan announced on Monday the creation of a network of services to enforce COVID-19 health measures during the week of Thanksgiving.
Beginning Wednesday, a program named All-Hands-on-Deck takes effect as local law enforcement officials, state police and others will fan out across the state to prevent super-spreader events as well as ensure that COVID protocols are kept by businesses and individuals.
Hogan stressed that widespread testing has kept Maryland’s COVID numbers in check, but that COVID-fatigue has resulted in some individuals and businesses becoming lax with their restrictions.
“Following the public health directives is the only way to fight this virus,” Hogan said during a press conference. “We can’t let a few bad apples spoil it for those who have done a great job.”
The governor was joined by Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski, Jr., Baltimore County Police Chief Melissa Hyatt, Maryland State Police Superintendent Col. Jerry Jones, and Marshall Weston, president and CEO of the Restaurant Association of Maryland.
Hogan said the All-Hands-on-Deck operation has three major goals. Officials are to ensure compliance of COVID restrictions, educate those who have broken the restrictions, and enforce the restrictions. In addition to law enforcement officials and state officials, the operation will include a 24/7 hotline for citizens to report violations.
“This is a pivotal moment in our fight against this deadly disease,” said Olszewski. “Lives are on the line and we will continue doing what we can to protect the public. We’re urging Marylanders to do the right thing this Thanksgiving by limiting contacts, following all state and local health orders, and wearing your mask.”
Hogan said that the taskforce was created to prevent incidents such as the one seen two weeks ago in Ann Arundel County. Two suspects were arrested for assaulting an employee at a Cold Stone Creamery who had asked them to wear a mask.
While the operation will be statewide, the focus will be on the communities of Bel Air, Towson, Salisbury, Silver Spring, and Baltimore. Restaurants, bars, and any other venue that host gatherings will be under heavy scrutiny, he said.
Hogan’s press conference capped off a busy day for the governor who earlier announced that $19.3 million had been awarded to local jurisdictions to be used to prevent evictions during the pandemic.
“Maryland has continued to be a national leader in out COVID-19 response,” Hogan said. “Which is why we have responded aggressively.”
On Monday morning, Hogan attended a socially distanced Maryland Remembers Ceremony to honor those who had lost their lives to impaired drivers. He was joined at this event by Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) Secretary Greg Slater and MDOT Motor Vehicle Administrator (MDOT MVA) Chrissy Nizer. Maryland State Police (MSP) Supt. Col. Woodrow Jones III participated virtually.
Maryland Remembers is held annually at the beginning of the holiday season, when impaired driving crashes tend to increase. Last year, 151 people died and more than 3,200 were injured on Maryland roadways because of impaired driving. More than 18,500 people were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs last year, with 1,847 of those arrests occurring from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day.
Earlier this month, a Maryland Remembers memorial stone was formally unveiled on the grounds of the MSP Annapolis Barrack for family, friends and community members to visit.