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Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


Rise in covid prompts town to close again

Vaccinations now offered to those 16 years old and up

By Mallory Panuska

(April 8, 2021) With covid-19 positivity rates creeping back up in the county and state, Berlin town officials have stayed true to an early pandemic policy and closed buildings and meetings to the public until the numbers improve.
Notice of the policy went out April 1 and Town Administrator Jeff Fleetwood said it will remain until the numbers fall below 5 percent positivity for five consecutive days.
“It’s very simple, the mayor and I agreed upon, when there was a 5 percent positivity rate in Worcester County and the state, that we’d close the offices,” Fleetwood said Monday.
According to data from the Maryland Department of Health, the statewide positivity rate was 5.6 percent April 1 and had consistently been in the 5 percent range for five days. As of Tuesday, the state’s rate was 5.8 percent.
The rate in the county is higher.
On April 1, Worcester County reported a positivity rate of 5.5 percent, which jumped to 7.13 percent the following day. The rate has remained in the 7 to 8 percent range since, with the highest — 8.77 percent — reported Monday. But as of Tuesday, it was back down to 7.13 percent.
Fleetwood said town officials closed offices at the start of covid last year but did not have to do it again until now. He said Town Hall is the most noteworthy public building affected because that is where some residents come to pay their utility bills. However, he said the number of people doing that in person is much less now.
“With the covid onset, people changed patterns, as I call it. There was a lot of online pay, dropping in the mail slot, U.S. mail payments … ,” Fleetwood explained.
The closure also no longer allows members of the public to attend meetings in person, but people can still watch virtually through the town’s Facebook page.
“The gist of all this is, hands down, we’re not infectious disease professionals,” Fleetwood said. “We’re just trying to take the common-sense approach and make the environment as safe as we can for employees and for our citizens.”
During a news conference Monday afternoon, Gov. Larry Hogan painted a slightly different picture.
While he admitted the numbers were not great, he applauded the state for staying out of the “red zone” and having lower positivity rates than states to the north.
He also talked up Maryland’s vaccination efforts.
Vaccines hit the 3-million-mark Monday, with more than 429,000 administered over the preceding week.
The state recently opened up vaccine eligibility for every Marylander over the age of 16 with underlying medical conditions and disabilities and Hogan announced Monday that the state has accelerated its proceeding vaccine phases to earlier than expected.
Tuesday, all state residents 16 and older were able to receive vaccines at any mass vaccination site in the county and beginning April 12, all Marylanders 16 and older can schedule appointments and get vaccinated through all providers.
However, Hogan specified that appointments for anyone in the preceding phases will take precedence.
“I want to stress that even though we are opening up eligibility for everyone it does not mean that everyone immediately will be able to get an appointment,” he said during the news conference.
State officials also opened a no-appointment line at the mass vaccination site in Salisbury Friday and Hogan said they will be adding those lines to all new mass vaccination sites.
The sites slated for opening throughout the month are as follows:
• Maryland State Fairgrounds (Baltimore County)
• Greenbelt Metro Station (Prince George’s County)*
• Montgomery College, Germantown (Montgomery County)
• Frederick Community College (Frederick County)
• Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium (Anne Arundel County)
• Ripken Stadium (Harford County)
• The Mall in Columbia (Howard County)