With two more weeks of the planned closure to go, questions are swirling on whether schools will reopen April 27. The fact is nobody knows at this time. Even the folks who will make the decision – the state superintendent of schools, the governor and leading health officials – have no idea. Though a decision will likely not be considered until April 20 at the earliest, all indications are the closure will likely extend into May in Maryland. Delaware schools are already closed through May 15. Pennsylvania schools are closed indefinitely. Virginia schools will not reopen until the fall.
During a Worcester County Board of Education meeting this week, Superintendent of Schools Lou Taylor said, “Nothing has changed. We don’t know when school will resume. I have no idea at this point. As soon as I’m informed, I will give that information to you.”
While on a conference call with lawmakers Wednesday, Maryland Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon said preparations are being made for long-term distance learning across the state.
“I’m not sure we are going to be doing school in the same way going forward,” Salmon told lawmakers. “We’re not sure that is not something that we’re going to revisit in the fall or the winter. I’m really focusing much of our resources on the expansion and accountability wrapped around online learning and distance learning.”
The reality is more time and testing is needed. Until the “curve” reaches its peak in Maryland and starts to head down, opening schools should be off the table. It’s too early to tell when the peak of cases will be achieved in the state. A study from the University of Washington contends April 19 will be the peak of deaths from COVID-19 in Maryland. If that’s true and the death curve mirrors the reported cases, it would have taken approximately six weeks for the virus to reach its peak from the beginning of cases being reported in Maryland. Therefore, it stands to reason it will be another six weeks for the virus cases to dwindle to zero, or close to it. If my logic is correct, early June is when COVID-19 numbers will be nil in Maryland.
Based on this and similar projections, it’s a safe bet to say schools will not be opening again this school year. The best direction may to focus on the fall and continue improving digital learning in the state, as the state superintendent seemed to be indicating this week.
Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot penned an op-ed this week suggesting residents and businesses take a “90-day payment holiday from monthly bills.”
“Now is the time for a 90-day payment holiday from monthly bills to help families and businesses struggling to keep their limited cash to manage the crisis and pay employees and suppliers. I encourage Marylanders facing economic hardships to immediately reach out to your creditors, property managers and suppliers to request payment deferrals or manageable payment options,” he wrote. “If companies won’t help with a 90-day deferral, ask for a 60, or a 30 deferral. If that doesn’t work, ask for a payment reduction. Don’t take no as the first answer. Any payment deferral means thousands of dollars back into your pocket.”
While the intent was sound, taking three months off from paying bills is not wise. Residents and businesses need to be responsible managing their finances with an eye on not ringing up too much debt. If the bills can be deferred without too many consequences, it’s a good decision, but we all need to be aware of what’s merely kicking the larger expenses down the road and what’s truly providing relief and helping cash flow.
For instance, I asked our company’s health insurance provider for a deferral of last month’s health insurance premium and next month’s payment. It was granted, but it added a large sum on top of the normal monthly premium payments for May through the end of the year. It’s an immediate help in this emergency, but the consequence over seven months will be significant.
Some relevant numbers to consider regarding COVID-19 as of Thursday at noon.
•16: Confirmed positive cases in Worcester County of the 238 test results administered.
•Four: Positive individuals released after recovery.
•41: Tri-county cases on the lower Eastern Shore
•6,185: Positive cases in Maryland (656 more than Wednesday)
•138: Deaths caused by the virus in Maryland
•Nine: Days until Maryland is expected to reach its peak in deaths, according to a study from the University of Washington.
•43: Percentage of confirmed individuals who were African American in Maryland compared to 32% white and 12% Asian or another race
•108,000: Marylanders who filed for unemployment over the last week. From March 1-April 4, 241,014 Maryland employees filed for unemployment. In 2019, there were 214,475 claims for the entire year in Maryland.
•1.5 million: Number of worldwide cases
•432,579: Number of U.S. cases
•14,831: Deaths in the U.S. with 24,213 recovered