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Maryland Gov. Hogan authorizes email-based telehealth, disability workers as essential during coronavirus crisis

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan added two executive orders to the state’s coronavirus response arsenal Wednesday, one that expands the use of telehealth to include email communication and the other establishing workers performing disability services as essential employees.

The two orders add depth to an already sweeping and unprecedented series of government regulations designed to slow the spread of the new coronavirus and prevent the state’s economy from collapsing. The contagious upper respiratory disease has sickened hundreds of thousands of people around the globe and killed close to 5,000 patients in the U.S.

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Much of the state’s workforce has transitioned to working from home to keep the virus at bay and prevent the masses from seeking medical attention all at once. But employees deemed by the state as “essential,” such as healthcare workers, emergency response personnel and law enforcement agents, often do not have the same ability to work remotely.

One of Wednesday’s measures amends a previous order allowing licensed healthcare professionals to deliver services via audio-only platforms to patients. The new ordinance enables healthcare practitioners to offer medical advice, treatment guidance and prescribe medication so long that it follows normal health guidelines.

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Medical personnel communicating with patients over email must also verify patients’ identity over the phone and disclose their name, contact information and the type of license they hold.

The second executive order qualifies those performing services for people with disabilities as essential healthcare providers. Those who provide food, shelter, interpreting services, social services or other services deemed as essential to keeping people with disabilities in their homes or neighborhoods fall under this category. The order authorizes their travel to and from their homes to their places of work.

The ordinance also extends to volunteers of companies, organizations, governments and nonprofits.

The state defines “people with disabilities” as people who are deaf, blind, or hard of hearing; people with mental illnesses; people with physical, developmental or intellectual disabilities; or people with substance use disorders.

In a statement, Hogan said Wednesday’s orders offer broadened support to Marylanders facing unforeseen challenges and disruptions in daily life.

“We need to be adaptive, innovative, and inclusive in our response,” Hogan said. “The orders I have issued today help ensure that Marylanders of all ages and abilities can continue receiving essential services throughout this public health crisis.”

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