by Geoff Fox
Hancock Mayor Ralph Salvagno has declared a State of Emergency in response to the COVID-19 virus outbreak that is effective immediately. The proclamation is dated March 30.
The official action closes all public recreation facilities, postpones all public events and places Hancock police on duty to enforce a statewide Stay at Home order.
The action comes on the same day Governor Larry Hogan issued a Stay at Home order for the entire state of Maryland.
In his address, Hogan said anyone not obeying the order would be arrested and charged with a misdemeanor, and on conviction, offenders may be subject to imprisonment not exceeding one year or a fine not exceeding $5,000 or both.
In the proclamation, Salvagno noted the severity of the COVID-19 virus as a severe respiratory disease resulting in illness or death caused by person-to-person spread of the novel coronavirus, which was previously not found in humans.
The coronavirus as a virus agent capable of causing extensive loss of life or serious disability is a deadly agent.
On March 5, Hogan declared a State of Emergency for Maryland and Washington County officials followed up by declaring a State of Emergency in the county on March 16.
The county has also initiated extensive coronavirus response and prevention measures.
The Town of Hancock is likewise initiating response and prevention measures to include opening the Washington County Emergency Operations/COVID-19 Response Center.
The town supports these efforts and has implemented COVID-19 response measures.
“This potential health emergency necessitates the deployment of resources and implementation of emergency powers to protect the health and safety of all residents of the Town of Hancock,” the declaration says.
These immediate town measures include:
- All playgrounds and playground equipment, basketball courts, pavilions, and other public facilities are closed until further notice.
- Kirkwood Park and Gerber Field are closed until further notice.
- All events, concerts, meetings and other public gatherings at the Town of Hancock Community Center are canceled until further notice.
- All public events such as but not limited to Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, The Hancock Senior Center and Cub Scouts are all postponed and suspended until further notice.
- The Town of Hancock Police Department is hereby placed on 24-hour scheduled coverage to monitor and enforce the Governor’s directives and Stay at Home order issued 30 March 2020.
The closures of the playgrounds, basketball court, Kirkwood Park, and Gerber Field had already been announced. Pavilions were originally announced as no more than five people at a time.
The town measures are implemented in addition to federal, state, and county COVID-19 response measures therefore do not reflect all public health measures in effect by all levels of government.
A signed copy of the document is in the possession of the town manager.
Hogan addresses restaurants, campgrounds
The governor noted restaurants would still be able to sell food and drink on a carry-out or drive-through basis; however, because residents of Maryland are not permitted to leave their homes to purchase products from non-essential businesses, curbside pickup at nonessential businesses are no longer permitted.
Hogan also closed campgrounds with the exception to residents of recreational vehicles at campgrounds that “genuinely have no other viable place of residence.” He also said they should continue to comply with CDC guidelines regarding social distancing.
Salvagno gives update
The mayor said the COVID-19 situation is something that won’t be going away in a week or two.
“If you look at what’s happening along the East Coast, predictably this will do its worst here maybe within the next two to three weeks,” Salvagno said. “So we have to have kind of a long term game plan.”
As of Monday afternoon, there had been 14 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Washington County with seven confirmed cases in non-Washington County residents.
This means someone from outside the county was tested within Washington County, however they do not live in the county.
Salvagno said he is not aware of any specific cases in Hancock at this time; however, it won’t be long until there is.
“I can reasonably predict in the next few weeks, there will be,” he said.
He said now is the time to prepare and wash hands frequently, avoid public gatherings, and maintain social distancing.
“It may not seem important now when everything else is happening a little bit further away, but in two weeks it will become very important,” Salvagno said.
Looking at the cases in the entire state, Salvagno said 53% of cases have been were in people under the age of 50. There have been children affected as well as those in their 20s, so “this is going to affect everyone.”
Salvagno said those younger people who think they won’t get the virus should look at social media and look at who have reported neighbors, coworkers, and family members who have tested positive and have been hospitalized in critical condition.
“No one is immune, that’s the point,” he said.
The mayor also suggested people to turn off the news and social media for a while to avoid the rumors and just relax, watch a movie, or read a book.