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Havre de Grace mayor and council promote social distancing, mask wearing as coronavirus cases increase in 21078 ZIP code

Havre de Grace plans to distribute items such as stickers, magnets, drink coasters and tote bags featuring cartoon characters designed by Havre de Grace artist Bill Watson, such as Charlie the Crab, that include reminders for people to wash their hands, wear a mask and socially distance to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Havre de Grace plans to distribute items such as stickers, magnets, drink coasters and tote bags featuring cartoon characters designed by Havre de Grace artist Bill Watson, such as Charlie the Crab, that include reminders for people to wash their hands, wear a mask and socially distance to prevent the spread of coronavirus. (Courtesy Bill Watson)

The City of Havre de Grace has launched a campaign to remind residents of state orders that people must wear a face covering when indoors — as well as outdoors when it is not possible to be more than 6 feet apart from others — to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Mayor William T. Martin discussed the campaign, which started with signs being posted in city parks and on the Promenade walkway between the City Yacht Basin and Concord Point Park, during the portion of Monday’s City Council reserved for remarks from the mayor.

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City leaders also plan to distribute items such as stickers, magnets, drink coasters and tote bags featuring cartoon characters designed by Havre de Grace artist Bill Watson, such as Charlie the Crab. Those items will have “reminders to tell everybody to please, wash your hands the best you can, do your best to stay 6 feet from somebody, and wear a mask if that’s not possible,” Martin said.

A table will be set up at the Havre de Grace Farmers Market in Hutchins Park in the coming weeks to promote the awareness campaign, according to the mayor.

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The campaign comes as the number of COVID-19 cases in the 21078 ZIP code, which covers the City of Havre de Grace and the surrounding areas, has increased dramatically in the past month. There were about 10 cases per month in March, April and May, but there was a sharp 65% increase in the number of cases, from 52 to 86, between July 1 and July 31, according to Martin.

The mayor said there were 96 cases in the Havre de Grace area as of Monday, and that number had not changed by Wednesday, based on data viewed on the Maryland Department of Health’s COVID-19 website.

“COVID is here in Havre de Grace now,” Martin said. “If you do the math, the odds are when you’re walking down the street there may be someone with COVID that passes you — that’s what the math tells us.”

The mayor said “it’s very concerning to me” that the number of cases in the area is increasing, although he noted “I wouldn’t say we need to be all alarmed, but we really need to be mindful that this [pandemic] is not over.”

Harford County had 1,878 confirmed cases as of Wednesday, including 66 deaths and three more “probable” deaths from the disease. There have been 92,426 confirmed cases statewide and 3,402 fatalities in which it has been confirmed that COVID-19 was the cause of death, according to the state health department.

Gov. Larry Hogan announced last week a new mandate that people age 5 and older wear face coverings when inside any public area in Maryland, as well as any time they are in a public place outside and cannot social distance. That regulation, which expands upon the mask order Hogan issued April 18, took effect July 31.

The figure of 96 means the 21078 ZIP code has the eighth-highest number of cases in Harford. The top five postal codes include 21001 (Aberdeen/Perryman) with 178 cases; 21050 (Forest Hill) with 213; 21009 (Abingdon) with 244; 21014 (Bel Air/Bel Air South/Forest Hill) with 289 and 21040 (Edgewood), with 291 cases, according to state data.

The Havre de Grace council meeting was streamed live over the internet, via the city’s YouTube channel, which has been the case for meetings of the City Council and other boards and commissions since April. The mayor, council members, city staff and spectators all wore masks during Monday’s meeting — some city leaders have not worn masks during prior meetings.

Martin said he likes to “err on the side of American citizens doing their own thing and what they think is best for everybody, but here we are with a virus that seems to be hanging on like a dog biting your ankle.”

“I want to keep our citizens safe, our families safe, so we’re going to do the best we can,” he said.

Martin urged people to wear masks even when outside if they cannot maintain social distancing, and people walking on the Promenade should keep masks around their necks so they can pull them up when passing another pedestrian.

“Grab a mask, keep it handy and let’s just hope really, really smart people are working on a vaccine for the near future,” the mayor said.

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