Although there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in St. Mary’s County as of Tuesday morning, several cancellations and postponements of county government meetings were announced last Friday.
The March 17 St. Mary’s County commissioners business meeting and budget work session were canceled, along with the March 17 planning commission meeting where the board was going to review a concept site plan for a 7-Eleven convenience store in Callaway.
All St. Mary’s County government meeting spaces will be closed at least through next Friday, March 27, including the commissioners meeting room at the Chesapeake building in Leonardtown.
However, all St. Mary’s government administrative offices are still open, at least as of Tuesday morning, for regular operations until further notice.
When asked why the meetings were canceled before a local state of emergency was declared, Commissioner Todd Morgan (R) said “this is a critical period” where the rate of cases can “possibly pick up” and the county government is working on “the side of caution.”
Commissioner President Randy Guy (R) did declare a state of emergency on Saturday, March 14. The emergency declaration follows a similar statewide measure signed earlier by the governor. The county declaration authorizes the commissioner president “to take such measures as necessary to maximize the preservation of life and property, including the authority to require protective measures and responses," according to a release from county government.
Morgan said as of now, the March 24 commissioners meeting and budget work session are still scheduled to take place.
“The budget needs to be finished by the end of the month,” he said, adding, the agenda calendar for the usual business meeting will be adjusted to include all of the items missed this week.
According to Rebecca Bridgett, county administrator, she looked at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for public gatherings and the maximum number of people in a room was 250 at the time, and the decision was made to cancel meetings and close many county government buildings. Today, it is recommended no more than of 50 people gather at one time.
She said agenda items will be reviewed on a “case-by-base basis” and are being rescheduled by how “time sensitive” an item is. Commissioners also need to “focus on the budget.”
One of the items that was supposed to go to commissioners for a vote this week was the decision on whether to designate St. Mary’s County as a "Second Amendment sanctuary area," but Bridgett said “it has not been rescheduled to the March 24 meeting at this time,” because there are other items the commissioners are required to take care of first.
Other board and committee meetings were been canceled, including Monday's Airport Advisory Board meeting and Library Board of Trustees meeting, a March 18 St. Mary’s County Ethics Commission meeting, the March 19 YMCA Exploratory committee meeting and Census Complete Count committee meeting, and a March 23 Commission on Aging meeting.
The county government and St. Mary's health department have partnered to open a COVID-19 information call center, which community members can use Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. to speak with staff, obtain information about the disease or get any other questions answered. The hotline number is 301-475-4911.