ELKTON — With the rise in COVID cases in Maryland, and with it more than 1,200 hospitalized, Gov. Larry Hogan has issued orders to hospitals to take steps to make more beds available.
“The vast majority of these hospitalizations are unvaccinated patients, who remain at grave risk of serious infection, severe illness, and death,” Hogan said.
The orders include reducing or ceasing non-urgent surgeries and making moves to increase the number of beds to meet demand.
Union Hospital, like other facilities in the ChristianaCare network of hospitals, has already put those measures in place.
“In order to meet the needs of our community and the demand for hospital beds at this time, ChristianaCare announced on Dec. 8 that we are temporarily postponing surgeries and procedures that are not time-sensitive and that would impact inpatient bed availability,” said Sharon Kurfuerst, president and chief executive officer. “We are working closely with our physician community to determine which surgeries and procedures can be safely delayed, as we also work closely with our patients who will be impacted.”
Hogan said that once the bed capacities across the state reach 1,500, each hospital would be ordered to implement its pandemic plan.
Hogan continues to urge the unvaccinated to take advantage of the free vaccines, especially with the rise of the Omicron variant.
“Based on preliminary data, Omicron is believed to be far more transmissible than previous variants, and it is anticipated to rapidly overtake Delta as the main driver of new cases,” Hogan said, adding that vaccinated need to get the booster. “Initial studies indicate that higher levels of immunity from booster shots do provide more protection, which makes it more important than ever that every single Marylander who is eligible for a booster shot should get a booster as soon as possible.”
Kurfeurst echoed that sentiment.
“We are grateful for Governor Hogan’s support in highlighting the urgency of our current situation, as COVID-19 is spreading rapidly throughout the community, leading to increased hospitalizations and deaths. The spread continues to be highest among people who are unvaccinated. We urge everyone who isn’t yet vaccinated to do so now, and we urge everyone who is eligible to receive a booster shot to get one,” she said. “In this season of giving, your vaccination is a gift of increased safety for your neighbors and our health care workers.”
The COVID-19 vaccine is now available to everyone 5 years of age and older.
The Cecil County Health Department said that as of last week, ChristianaCare Union Hospital reported that the hospital was at 120% of capacity. Statewide hospital capacity is at 95%. Approximately 75% of patients admitted to ChristianaCare are unvaccinated.
The Health Department recommends that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask when indoors or in a crowded outdoor setting. Other strategies such as ventilation, social distancing and frequent hand washing can also reduce the risk of transmission.
For those who have received two doses of either Pfizer or Moderna should get the booster six months past the second dose. Recipients of the Johnson & Johnson single shot should get the booster two months later.
Pharmacies can administer the free vaccine as can a personal physician. To find the location nearest you go to https://cecilcountyhealth.org/.
RISING SUN — Lucas Buchanan peered through the observation glass on Saturday afternoon and excitedly processed the sensory overload caused by the sights and sounds of the Chesapeake Susquehanna & Western Model Railroad display near Rising Sun.
“I see a train . . . I see a train,” exclaimed the 4-year-old Buchanan, seconds after he and his family arrived at the exhibit.
A few seconds later, however, after the youngster had further surveyed the sprawling model train display occupying most of the 42’-by-26’ room, he seemed gleefully overwhelmed by the enormity of it all.
“So many trains,” gushed Lucas, his face now pressed against the glass, his eyes moving side to side and up and down.
So many trains, indeed.
Approximately 130 O-gauge railroad cars — separated into four different trains, each with two pulling engines — were whirring on the miniature tracks at the particular time that Lucas and other visitors were ogling the exhibit, according to 75-year-old Karl Reichenbach, owner and creator of the display.
Meanwhile, numerous other trains with 22 to 25 railroad cars each stood dormant on tracks in a staging area on the display. A hobbyist since December 1949, when, at age 3, he received a model train kit as a Christmas gift, Reichenbach estimates that he now owns 500 to 600 railroad cars and 60 to 70 engines after more than 60 years of collecting.
Reichenbach’s model trains run along approximately 1,950 feet of tracks that snake across bridges and through intricately-detailed landscapes, including towns, farms and even a mountain upon which a ski resort stands. The tracks tunnel through that mountain. The sprawling display, which has a few levels, is accented by little trees, little buildings, little farm animals, little automobiles and even little people, about 600 of them.
Along the wall of the observation area are some interactive buttons that allow visitors to make things happen on the display. Press one button, for example, and a U.S. flag unfurls as if it is waving in the wind. Press another and an engine horn blares. The lights on a Christmas tree brighten when another button is pushed.
Reichenbach cannot pinpoint when his love of trains started, noting that he sort of recalls living near railroad tracks when he was a young boy growing up in Newark, Del. and that he remembers his late mother and grandmother telling him that they took him to visit the B&O Train Station in that college town when he was child.
“The only vivid memory I have is when I got my first train layout for Christmas when I was three . . . My uncle (the late Roy Reed) set it up on a 4’-by-8’ sheet of plywood. I still remember when I first saw it,” Reichenbach said, adding, “I still have that sheet of plywood.”
(Reichenbach still has the engine that came with his first model train kit, too, and it sits on a display shelf at the exhibit along with other keepsakes related to his hobby.)
This marks the 36th year that Reichenbach has opened up his Porter Road property to the public during the Christmas season to show off his model train display. He is a semi-retired owner of a masonry business.
During the first 10 years, starting in 1986, the model train display was in the basement of the home where Reichenbach and his wife, Linda, live and that is where visitors went to see it. Because of limited space in that basement, however, people sometimes had to wait their turn.
Then he built an adjacent two-story garage, designating the second level as a place to enjoy his hobby. The room is big enough to accommodate his model train display and the seasonal visitors it attracts. Since 1996, Reichenbach has opened that model railroad display room to the public on specified dates and times during the Christmas season. It is free of charge.
“I did it with kids in mind. That’s why there are benches for kids to stand on to see it better,” Reichenbach said. He paused briefly and then qualified, “Well, I just enjoy sharing this with people, not just kids.” Reichenbach agreed that, in most cases, when adults see the bustling model train display, it brings out the kid in them.
Reichenbach draws a lot of return visitors.
“I actually have people who came here when they were kids ,and now they’re bringing their children and even grandchildren to see it,” Reichenbach said.
Dave and Megan Delgaudio of Queen Anne’s County brought their 15-year-old sons, Vincent and Rocco, to see the display on Saturday — a day in which 68 visitors signed Reichenbach’s guestbook during the five-hour open house. Megan’s parents have lived across the street from Reichenbach for 45 years, ever since she was a girl. The Delgaudio family makes a point to see the model train display when it visits Megan’s parents during the Christmas holidays.
“It is always a special treat for us to see Mr. Reichenbach and his trains,” Megan said.
Rising Sun resident Jessica Buchanan said she and her husband, Forney, take their children — Lucas, the lad who marveled over the sight of “so many trains,” and fraternal twins, Cora and Finn, 7 — to the display every year. (Also with them on Saturday were family friends Alexis Abrams, 11; and her siblings, Hunter, 8, and Wyatt, 5.)
“It’s just incredible,” Jessica said of Reichenbach’s model train display.
Referring to how her children feel about the annual visit to see the model train display, she commented, “It’s like their favorite thing ever.”
Reichenbach, who has served as fire chief and in other capacities with The Community Fire Company of Rising Sun for the past 45 years, is a kid at heart. Nothing is automatic on his model train display, which means that Reichenbach manually controls everything — making him the overall engineer. He wears an engineer cap when he’s keeping the trains running.
His train display is an ever-changing work in progress. Reichenbach sets aside one night a week to work on it — but, at some point, the child inside of him always comes out.
“I come up here every Tuesday night. I work on it for a while, but I always end up playing with it,” Reichenbach admitted with a chuckle. “Maybe it’s keeping me young.”
Reichenbach’s Chesapeake Susquehanna & Western Model Railroad at 36 Porter Rd. near Rising Sun will be open to the public from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on the following dates: Tuesday, Dec. 21; Thursday, Dec. 23; Tuesday, Dec. 28 and Thursday, Dec. 30.
CECIL COUNTY — On Monday, Jan. 3 all 180 Cecil County Public School buses will be outfitted with cameras inside and outside the bus to ensure student safety.
The school system is partnering with company BusPatrol who will provide the cameras. The cameras will catch people who are driving past school buses when they are stopped with flashing lights and extended stop arms.
The technology, installation and maintenance are provided at no cost to the county. The program is entirely funded by violators over five years.
“I am very excited to partner with Cecil County Public Schools and BusPatrol on this initiative. I can’t think of anything more important than the safety of our children,” sheriff Scott Adams said. “This program cannot help but deter the dangerous situation of a vehicle passing a school bus while it is on-boarding or off-boarding children.”
Cecil County Council president Bob Meffley said the revenue from the cameras will be split, with one-third going to the company that produces the cameras, and two-thirds going to the Cecil County Sheriff’s Office.
“This initiative with BusPatrol is yet another great opportunity for us to partner with the Cecil County Sheriff’s Office,” superintendent Jeffrey Lawson said. “This additional tool will greatly enhance law enforcement’s ability to enforce critical traffic laws that are in place to protect our students.”
Vehicles that illegally pass a stopped school bus will receive a $250 citation in the mail.
“Something’s got to be done,” Dale Brown, manager of Brown Bus Company, said in support of the new cameras. “Do we need a child to be hit by a car before we do something? This is proactive.”
The technology will also include GPS and fleet management technology for school officials to track buses, a silent alarm system and eight 360 degree cameras to monitor activity inside and outside the school bus.
CCPS said that in the event of a behavioral incident, administrators will be able to review footage from the bus cameras. Bus drivers have called for changes with how CCPS handles discipline on buses, arguing that a lack of discipline has created an unsafe working environment.
“If you’re not going to do anything to the kid once you’ve found out he’s done something, there’s no reason to have cameras on the bus,” Brown said.
RISING SUN — Police captured two suspects during a multi-hour manhunt near Rising Sun on Thursday, after at least one of them reportedly bailed out of a disabled stolen vehicle amid a police chase, according to the Maryland State Police.
Investigators identified one of the suspects as Paul Bouchelle Jr., 44, of Elkton. As of Tuesday, five days after the incident, no criminal charges had been filed against Bouchelle, based on an online search of Cecil County court records. Nor had any traffic charges been filed against Bouchelle, whom investigators believe was the driver of the purported stolen vehicle involved in the police chase.
Police captured Bouchelle while he was in the area of Joseph Biggs Memorial Highway (Route 274) early Thursday night, about six hours after the manhunt started — after a resident had spotted him on nearby Trinity Church Road and contacted authorities to report the sighting, according to police.
MSP officials reported Thursday night that Bouchelle was in custody. As of late Tuesday afternoon, however, it was not clear if Bouchelle remained in custody.
The name of the second suspect, also a man, had not been released by MSP, as of late Tuesday afternoon. Nor had information been released regarding what, if any, charges had been filed against him.
Law enforcement officers caught that suspect at the Flying J. Travel Center in North East shortly after the manhunt on Thursday had started, police reported. That man allegedly was a passenger in the purported stolen vehicle, but, as of late Tuesday afternoon, it still was unclear at what point he allegedly fled on foot.
MSP has issued two written press releases regarding the manhunt. Both released on Thursday night, the second of those press releases was categorized as an update, and it indicated that Bouchelle was in custody — but it made no mention of the other suspect, who reportedly had been caught before Bouchelle. The first press release also made no reference to the other suspect.
The incident resulting in the manhunt started at approximately 11:30 a.m. Thursday, when MSP received a be-on-the-lookout bulletin from the Cecil County Sheriff’s Office, police said. CCSO was trying to locate a suspect driving a stolen vehicle, which was described as a silver Ford pickup truck, police added.
MSP troopers spotted the described pickup truck west of Red Toad Road, according to police. But when they tried to conduct a traffic stop, the driver — later identified as Bouchelle — sped away, spurring a short chase, police reported.
About two minutes later, an MSP trooper who had positioned himself in the area of Ebenezer Church Road and Principio Road was able to stop the pickup truck, police said. That trooper, who is assigned to the agency’s North East Barrack, had placed stop sticks on the pavement and, when the pickup truck ran over them, the vehicle became disabled in the 800 block of Principio Road, police added.
After the pickup truck came to rest in a large field along that road, the driver — later identified as Bouchelle — got out of the vehicle and ran into a nearby “densely wooded area,” police reported.
It was believed that Bouchelle might be “armed and dangerous,” according to information contained in the MSP press releases.
MSP Lt. Jeffrey Kirschner, commander of the agency’s North East Barrack, told the Cecil Whig on Tuesday afternoon that Bouchelle was not in possession of a weapon when he was captured. (Kirschner was not at the barrack during his telephone interview and, because of that, he did not have access to the second suspect’s name.)
During and after the manhunt, some citizens made unsubstantiated reports that gunshots were fired at different times and at different places during the incident. “I am not aware of an exchange of gunfire,” Kirschner told the Whig on Tuesday afternoon.
In setting up a perimeter around the suspect after he allegedly ran away, MSP troopers and CCSO deputies blocked portions of roads in that area, including sections of Ebenezer Church Road and Principio Road, and also set up checkpoints. Law enforcement officers assigned to their respective agencies’ K9 Units attempted to track down the suspect with their specially trained scent dogs.
Also part of the manhunt, an MSP helicopter crew and a Delaware State Police helicopter crew made numerous aerial passes over an area marked by woods and open fields bordering Ebenezer Church and Principio Roads.
Late on Thursday afternoon, more than four hours after the manhunt had started, one of those helicopter crews landed a chopper in a field off Principio Road, across the street from a makeshift command center on a private lane, where numerous law enforcement vehicles were parked in a line.
Residents on portions of Ebenezer Church Road, Principio Road and Theodore Road were placed on lockdown shortly after the manhunt started, and they were asked to report any suspicious activity, according to a CCSO alert. Law enforcement officers reportedly went door to door at some of those residences along those roads.
Early Thursday night, several police vehicles were driven from the command center, with their emergency lights flashing, after there reportedly had been a sighting of the suspect in the area of Trinity Church Road. Police confirmed Tuesday that law enforcement officers caught Bouchelle a short time later.
“Police believe he may be armed and dangerous,” according to the MSP press releases. “Multiple warrants for his arrest in Maryland and in surrounding states are entered into the National Crime Information Center database and information has been communicated to police throughout the region.”