Editor's Note: What follows is an end of March op-ed from County Executive Alan McCarthy. A version of this note with updates will be published in the Friday Cecil Whig.
Cecil County, Maryland, the United States and the world are now engulfed in a global pandemic related to the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Our schools, many small businesses, restaurants, churches and gathering places are shut down and our local way of life has been changed in so many ways. In this time of crisis, we cannot let our guard down. On an almost daily basis, the number of confirmed cases rises in Cecil County and the state.
On March 9, when Governor Hogan initiated steps toward trying to contain spread of the disease, there were only 9 confirmed cases in the state.; as of March 30, that figure had risen to 1,413 confirmed cases. In Cecil County, the first confirmed case was reported on March 22, and the count has risen steadily…
This is serious and all county residents, regardless of age, must abide by the precautions put forward by our state and local health officials and Governor Hogan. By now, we should all know the fundamentals by heart: wash hands thoroughly and frequently; don’t touch your face; practice “social distancing,” keeping at least six feet away from other people; seniors and people of all ages with underlying conditions such as diabetes, lung or breathing problems, cancer and immune system issues should stay home and avoid contact with other people. People who traveled to the New York City area should self-quarantine at home for two weeks, as ordered by Governor Hogan recently.
The good news is that most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment, according to our health officials, but older adults and individuals with underlying medical conditions are at far greater risk of developing more serious complications from COVID-19. But the explosive growth of COVID-19 could ultimately overwhelm the medical system’s ability to care for all citizens.
In Cecil County, right now there are heroes among us who are going the extra mile every day as this health crisis escalates. First of all, we commend our courageous law enforcement officers and first responders, including the volunteer fire companies who staff ambulances to treat and transport patients in need of medical help, along with our county paramedic and emergency workers. Our Department of Emergency Services obtained personal protection equipment from the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services and distributed them to the volunteer services, and we are continuing to seek more supplies for them.
The nurses and medical team members who staff our local hospital, nursing homes and critical dialysis centers continue to do their life-saving work, putting in long hours away from their own families to care for others. Perhaps our community can show them some appreciation and support: if your neighbor is a nurse or health worker, drop off some home-cooked meals or order them a dinner from the many restaurants who have had to close their doors to diners but are struggling to get by with takeout or delivered meals.
Don’t forget some other unsung heroes in our community: the truck drivers and store staff who are struggling to stock shelves with food and basic supplies. A polite “Thank You” instead of a mad dash for toilet paper just might cheer up the store workers who are putting in long days to try to help people get what they truly need.
And our truck drivers are truly going the extra mile: over the past few days, trucks have lined up at the Medline facility in Cecil County to load urgently needed medical supplies for delivery to medical institutions all over the nation.
Our Cecil County Public Schools have pitched in, with help from volunteers, to make sure that children have food to eat while the schools are closed. Total meals served by CCPS since Monday, March 16 through Thursday, March 26 number 19,846.
This has been accomplished with a staff of 10, led by Scott Heckert, Manager of Food and Nutrition for CCPS. Volunteers at Janes United Methodist Church have pitched in to staff a center at the church to supplement meal pick-up sites at schools around the county.
And the “Feed The Kids” group on Facebook has organized volunteers to pick up bagged meals at the schools and home deliver them to families unable to pick up meals on their own.
These positive responses to our current health crisis are what makes Cecil County great: people pitching in to help others in a time of need.
But unfortunately, we have also seen an ugly underside as some people choose to put others at risk by crowding into larger stores and shopping for non-necessities or attacking others on social media for taking this disease seriously or to push their personal agendas. And if you don’t worry about your own safety, think about the health workers and first responders who are risking their own safety to be ready to help you or your family if the need arises.
Governor Hogan issued a Stay-At-Home order effective at 8:00 p.m. on Monday, March 30th. It is my hope that everyone in Cecil County will take this seriously and abide by his order. We will not be able to stop the spread of this deadly virus if we do not act aggressively and immediately.
We could all use a little more kindness and co-operation right now. I know that we will get through this together and I thank you for doing your part to ensure the health and safety of our community.