The Charles County Board of Commissioners voted Thursday to postpone entering Phase One of Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s reopening plan until May 29.
The emergency meeting was called in response to Hogan’s announcement that the state would begin moving into the first phase of the reopening plan starting Friday.
Citing concerns about climbing infection rates in neighboring Prince George’s County and a potential lack of personal protective equipment among businesses that would reopen under the new guidelines, the commissioners voted 3 to 2 in favor of delaying reopening the county.
The stay-at-home order will remain in place in Charles County until May 29, at which point the county will begin a “phased-approach” for reopening businesses, houses of worship and other personal services.
Commissioners Reuben Collins, Thomasina Coates and Amanda Stewart voted for the delay in reopening. Commissioners Bobby Rucci and Gilbert Bowling III voted against the delay. An earlier vote put forward by Bowling to reopen the county along with Hogan’s plan failed 2 to 3 against.
“Our community’s response has been excellent so far, and I want to continue that trend by asking our residents and businesses to continue following the stay-at-home order while preparing for the next phase of our recovery,” said Collins. “Ensuring the safety and well-being of all residents remains my highest priority.”
Charles County has seen a decline in the number of COVID-19 deaths in the past six days, according to data from the county’s health department.
Dr. Howard Haft, who is temporarily overseeing the county’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, said that he felt the county had met the criteria to allow it to begin the reopening process.
Stewart said she had heard from a number of concerned citizens who did not feel comfortable with the idea of reopening while neighboring counties were still struggling with the virus.
Before the meeting adjourned, the county commissioners agreed that more should be done to work with neighboring counties to ensure that the virus is contained.
Hogan’s order allows the leaders of local jurisdictions to impose their own restrictions on reopening if they do not feel that doing so would be in the best interest of their communities.
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Charles Co. Public Schools to allow in-person graduations
Charles County Public Schools will offer graduating seniors the option to participate in an in-person graduation ceremony during the week of June 1 on an outdoor stage at their respective schools.
Superintendent Kimberly Hill announced last week that seniors would have the chance to walk across a stage in their cap and gown.
The school system said that each high school in the county is coordinating a date and time slot to honor graduating students. The schools will host two events per day.
Only graduating students and family may attend; the general public will not be permitted at the ceremonies. Families are limited to one vehicle each.
If a student does not wish to attend an in-person graduation, they can send in a picture of themselves in their cap and gown to be used in a virtual ceremony.
A virtual ceremony for all seven public county high schools will be held June 11, starting at 7 a.m. on Comcast Channel 96, Verizon FiOS Channel 12, on the CCPS Vimeo and YouTube channels.