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Carroll County commissioners extend coronavirus-related state of emergency after debate

Two weeks after voting to lift Carroll County’s local state of emergency beginning June 27, the county commissioners voted, 3-2, to extend it past that date.

Carroll County has been under a state of emergency since March 13 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the June 11 meeting of the Board of County Commissioners, the board voted, 3-2, to end the state of emergency on June 27. Commissioners Ed Rothstein, R-District 5, and Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, were opposed then.

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At Thursday’s meeting, Commissioner Richard Weaver, R-District 2, raised the topic and made the motion to extend the state of emergency, this time voting along with Wantz and Rothstein. It is now set to continue until at least July 15.

“I’d rather be safe than sorry,” Weaver said.

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He cited concerns about what message lifting the state of emergency would send to the public. He also expressed worry that the county may be ineligible for relief funding if a local state of emergency is not in place, though federal relief funds have not hinged on that factor.

Commissioners Eric Bouchat, R-District 4, and Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, argued that the state of emergency status does not change how the county responds to the pandemic. At the June 11 meeting, they pushed to allow the state of emergency to expire June 13, until Weaver suggested a compromise of June 27.

“I can’t think of a reason to stay in [a state of emergency],” Frazier said Thursday. “There’s not a single logical reason.”

Bouchat pointed to the county’s coronavirus death toll, acknowledging most cases and deaths were found in congregate living facilities such as nursing homes.

While county staff said at the June 11 meeting that lifting the state of emergency will not change how county government handles the pandemic, the county’s director of public safety, head of emergency management, and county health officer each said they were against ending the state of emergency. They worry the public would not take the threat of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, as seriously if the county’s emergency status changed.

Frazier reminded the board of its June 11 vote and asked if this same discussion will occur in a few weeks when the state of emergency is set to expire. Rothstein suggested that pushing back the deadline to July 15 will give the commissioners more time to consider when it’s appropriate to end the state of emergency.

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