Carroll County commissioners voted, 3-2, to remain in a state of emergency for the next 30 days at Thursday morning’s open session.
During a lengthy discussion, Commissioner Ed Rothstein, R-District 5, who initially recommended that the county end the state of emergency made a 180-degreee turn after the county’s emergency management manager, Valerie Hawkins, and Maggie Kunz, the county’s health planner, detailed to the commissioners the need for effective response to the pandemic.
“The state of emergency does allow us to have a higher level of coordination and cooperation amongst all of the agencies because the emergency operation plan for the county is in effect,” Hawkins said.
Activation of Carroll County’s emergency operations plan allows the department of public works to function as a resource support coordinating function lead and for departments that do not normally work together to coordinate more efficiently, Hawkins said.
“A lot of the activity centers around vaccination clinics, our department of public works is taking on that extra role and extra level coordination with department of health to get those types of activities done over and above what we’re doing day to day,” Hawkins said. “Its a tighter coordination to get things done than would be in place day to day. Most of the time public works and department of health do not work as closely together as they do now. That is one example and there are many.”
Hawkins also said the county has National Guard assets that were requested from the state that are currently assisting with vaccination clinics — being in a state of emergency is a precursor for the request, she said.
The county’s health department is also dependent on the continued state of emergency, Kunz said.
“We are definitely reliant on the tight and careful coordination with community partners in order to accomplish the goals we have for vaccination and many other parts of the response that are still ongoing, the testing and the PPE distribution and the many other things we are still doing,” she said.
Kunz also said that the county’s health officer, Ed Singer, believed that lifting the state of emergency was premature and sends the message that “the pandemic is over and it really isn’t.”
Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, who was the first to object to withdrawing from a state of emergency, said the county needs to continue to follow the governor’s guidelines during the pandemic and stay aligned with the state which is still in a state of emergency.
“Everything we have done has followed the governor’s directions and his team the whole time through this,” Wantz said. “I suspect that the governor because of the decisions that he made a couple days, will probably be doing something with the state state of emergency in the next 30 days and I’m just perplexed at why all of the sudden now we feel as if we don’t need to follow his guidelines.”
Rothstein who initially said ending the state of emergency would be the best course of action for the county, changed his mind upon hearing Hawkins and Kunz’s testimony.
Rothstein said the decision to stay in a state of emergency was about “the messaging that needs to go along for public safety and to say that we are still in a pandemic.”
“I don’t think there is anything political about this, this has everything to do with doing what is right,” Rothstein said.
At the end of the discussion, commissioners Rothstein, Wantz, and Richard Weaver, R-District 2 voted for the county to remain in a state of emergency and commissioners Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, and Eric Bouchat, R-District 4, voted against.
“If we’re predicting that mostly likely in 30 days we’re going to be in a better position than I think the only reason for staying in a state of emergency is for politics and optics,” Bouchat said in dissent.
While the commissioners could not agree on remaining in a state of emergency, all expressed the need to continue to follow Gov. Hogan’s executive orders pertaining to wearing masks, social distancing and hand washing.
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“The masks will be worn in public facilities, in grocery stories, in government buildings, there is no question about that,” Rothstein said. “We will maintain 6 feet distance, masks are to be worn even while maintaining 6 feet distance. There are no exceptions.”