Gov. Larry Hogan’s press conference this week on COVID-19 vaccinations had some good news and bad news on the distribution effort. It was a relief to hear the information laid out clearly to educate the citizenry on realistic expectations. For many, the vaccines carry hope for some semblance of normal society reemerging. It’s understandable, but it must be tempered with realism on the timeline.
The good news is new vaccine shipments arrive daily in Maryland and Hogan outlined this week exactly how the allocation process works through the federal government. In two weeks, there have been 76,916 vaccinations administered in Maryland, including 11,556 alone on Tuesday. In total, there have been more than 270,000 doses distributed throughout Maryland as part of Phase 1A, which includes healthcare workers, first responders and nursing home residents.
At the current pace, and this is the realistic part, which makes it bad news, Hogan said during his press conference he thought 30% of the population in Maryland would be vaccinated by June and 60% by September. The general public is in phase three, which is estimated to begin with vaccinations in the early fall.
What does this mean? The current pace is not fast enough to ensure 2021 will look a lot different than 2020 as far as government-imposed quality of life changes. It most likely indicates restaurant and retail capacity restrictions will be with us for most of the year. Masking and physical distance obligations will surely be the norm this year. It also signals the ongoing challenges with education as the current issues facing decision makers will not simply evaporate until something called “herd immunity” is reached. Herd immunity takes place when a significant enough amount of the population has become immune to make the spread unlikely. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci believes herd immunity will be achieved when 75% to 80% of the population is vaccinated, meaning likely late this year.
On the positive side, it was welcome news to hear teachers have been moved up on the vaccination pyramid to phase 1B, meaning educators could get shots as early as late January. This could go a long way toward easing some fears, but it should be tempered with the fact it’s a two-part vaccination with the second dose coming three weeks after the first.
The Worcester County Commissioners were right to continue moving forward with site exploration for a sports complex. The commissioners have heavily debated this subject in recent years and it was an unknown heading into Tuesday’s meeting whether the county would continue the effort.
In a surprisingly 6-1 vote, the commissioners gave approval for county staff to continue with early efforts to secure property for consideration of a sports complex development. To date, efforts to secure land in the south end of the county have been unsuccessful, according to Tom Perlozzo, the county’s director of recreation, parks, tourism and economic development.
It was surprising to hear the county was even scouting sites in the south end of the county. If the object of building the complex is to attract families from other marketplaces for sports events, the facility needs to be in the north end. Having the operation in the Snow Hill and Pocomoke area would mean most hotel bookings and restaurant visits for Wicomico County.
If economic development is the goal, private property between Berlin north to the state line needs to be the goal. The concept of using state Program Open Space dollars for the property’s acquisition makes perfect sense.
It may be too early to tell for sure, but the fate of next summer’s foreign worker program in Ocean City may well rest with President-Elect Biden.
On New Year’s Eve, Trump extended two key proclamations set to expire that day through March 31 suspending temporary visa issuances like those secured by young workers who come to Ocean City during the summer months. The ban’s impact was tremendous last summer. According to an Ocean City Chamber of Commerce survey, 86% of the 85 businesses participated said they were heavily impacted without the foreign student workers.
An article in Forbes magazine this month discussed what Biden might do in regard to overturning Trump’s proclamation immediately upon taking office. The article read, “The Biden administration would not need to go through the regulatory process to rescind the proclamations. … including those connected to travel and coronavirus, are expected to be undone, even if not on day one. … Joe Biden will not be a pro-immigration president if he enacts or continues anti-immigration policies on H-1B and L-1 visas. H-1B visas are generally the only way highly educated foreign nationals, including international students, can become employment-based immigrants and eventually American citizens.”
Allowing the temporary visa suspensions to continue through March could mean a repeat of last summer’s summer employment woes. Foreign embassies will be overwhelmed with applications in April and a long approval delay will likely make travel for next summer unreasonable. It would be good for Ocean City if Biden rolled back Trump’s position.