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With 227 confirmed cases and 162 social distancing complaints, Baltimore County executive announces coronavirus response fund

Baltimore County has launched a COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund to support residents and governmental needs, even as the county has received 162 complaints related to social distancing infractions since the state and county announced social gatherings would be limited to 10 or fewer people, County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. announced Tuesday.

Two cease-and-desist letters related to violations of the social-distancing mandate have been issued, to a gym in the 8300 block of Pulaski Highway and a barber shop in the 1800 block of Bel Air Road, according to Baltimore County Fire Department spokeswoman Elise Armacost.

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Olszewski said infractions were being handled by a task force of Baltimore County police, fire and health department personnel. The Office of the Fire Marshal has the authority to issue citations to certain businesses that are found violating county mandates on a complaint-driven basis, Armacost said.

The response fund, managed by the Baltimore Community Foundation, is meant to aid those in the county “facing job loss, food insecurity and other challenges during this extraordinary time ... while boosting our ability to respond to this evolving crisis,” Olszewski said.

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Donations can be used to support myriad efforts, including buying groceries for seniors and food-insecure families and purchasing personal protective equipment for first responders and public health personnel.

Individuals, foundations and private sector donors can contribute. County leadership will determine how funds are disbursed.

“Unfortunately, the worst of our challenges are yet to come,” Olszewski said. “This is an all-hands-on-deck moment.”

“This fund meets a pressing need for Baltimore County and represents a model for cross-sector collaboration,” Shanaysha Sauls, president and chief executive officer of the Baltimore Community Foundation, said in a news release.

Baltimore County also announced a virtual town hall on Thursday, April 2 and a budget hearing on Tuesday, April 7 at 6 p.m. Details for viewing the hearing will be available online, Olszewski said.

“We already know we are seeing [increased] expenditures to ensure the safety of our residents,” Olszewski said. “There certainly is an economic impact to this.”

“We are taking a very cautious approach" to store up contingency and reserve funding, Olszewski said.

Olszewski said his administration was working with county hospitals to prepare for a surge.

On Monday, Gov. Larry Hogan ordered Maryland residents to stay at home except for essential activities.

Baltimore County has continued to ramp up its response to the coronavirus pandemic as the novel respiratory illness escalates in the U.S. In Maryland, 18 have died out of the 1,660 confirmed cases.

Baltimore County has 227 confirmed cases as of Tuesday morning, according to the county Health Department.

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On Monday, Olszewski announced his administration would suspend issuing parking citations for the duration of the local state of emergency. Members of the public are also now barred from entering beyond the lobby of all Towson governmental buildings.

Olszewksi had already closed the county’s senior and recreation centers and libraries and suspended water shutoffs. He’s also granted a 30-day extension to all county licenses, permits and registrations until after the local state of emergency is lifted and canceled or postponed all “non-essential” public meetings in order to encourage social distancing.

More information about the county’s changes amid the pandemic can be viewed online. Residents with coronavirus-related questions or concerns can call the Baltimore County Department of Health at 410-887-3816 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

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