Baltimore Mayor says city is "not comfortable" with reopening on Governor's schedule

At 5 pm today, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) plans to address the state and provide the final details of how he plans to reopen the state of Maryland for business. This process could begin as soon as this coming week. Unfortunately for him, some Democratic leaders around the state aren’t even waiting for him to announce the details of the plan and are dismissing Hogan’s agenda before he even speaks. This includes the interim Mayor of Baltimore, Jack Young. He’s already declared that local officials in and around Charm City aren’t “comfortable” with rushing into the grand reopening and they will decide for themselves when they are ready to start returning to business as usual.

Gov. Larry Hogan plans to speak Wednesday about when he will start the first phase of Maryland’s recovery, but some local leaders may not be onboard with a quick reopening.

Gov. Hogan spoke to mayors and county executives from around the state Tuesday including Baltimore City Mayor Jack Young who says it is not time yet.

“We don’t feel comfortable right now to really open up so we are going to continue to follow the advice of our health professionals, and when they say it’s time for us to relax some things, we’ll do it,” Mayor Young said during a press briefing.

Part of this is purely politics, as you might imagine. Hogan is the Republican Governor of a very blue state and Maryland Democrats are constantly frustrated with Hogan’s popularity, high approval ratings, and the ease with which he wins elections. (Larry Hogan is consistently rated among the five most popular governors in the country.) So any time they get the chance to take a shot at him it’s generally too much for them to resist.

But having said that, even as much as I like Hogan’s style in most situations, I think he’s off base here and Jack Young actually has a point. Young is talking about the “Big Eight” (meaning the eight largest jurisdictions in the state) each deciding for themselves when it’s time to reopen. And that makes sense.

I’ve said the same thing about other states like Pennsylvania where governors have tried to impose one-size-fits-all solutions on the counties. That doesn’t make sense. Baltimore is a very densely populated city with many low-income residents and serious issues with their health care system. It may take longer for them to prepare to reopen. Some of the coastal resort areas in Maryland also have to deal with big crowds of tourists who could quickly overload their available hospital resources if a major outbreak of the virus hit them. But some of the more central, inland counties are considerably more rural or suburban, with relatively few cases of COVID-19 thus far. They could be ready to go much sooner. Why make them wait until Baltimore is ready?

The previously released details of Larry Hogan’s plan don’t do much to inspire confidence either. He’s said that he doesn’t like a “piecemeal” approach to reopening and wants to do it in phases for the entire state. Phase 1 would consist of lifting his stay at home order and allowing small retail shops and larger outlets using curbside pickup plans to open up. He would also allow “limited” outdoor activities including religious service and gym classes.

But he’s talking about phase one lasting until as late as Labor Day! That’s the entire summer. Perhaps Baltimore and the seaside resorts will decide they need that long, but the less densely populated counties certainly aren’t going to want to. They’ll probably be hoping to get to phase two by the Fourth of July so they can salvage at least some of the summer months.

This might be a situation where Hogan should offer his state plan as a suggested guideline while allowing all of the individual cities and counties to go through the steps at a rate they are comfortable with. That seems like the only rational way to get as many people back to work as possible without risking another serious outbreak.

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