The grim reality is it’s going to take most of 2021 for a majority to get the COVID-19 vaccination. Barring major changes in the distribution model, it’s a supply vs. demand matter as well as a practical and logistical impossibility to have higher expectations. Leaving out the political machinations and conspiracy theories from both sides of the aisle in Washington, D.C., it’s become painfully clear vaccinating the public will be a long, arduous process. It’s going to take most of the year for vaccinations to get in the arms of at least 50% of people in the state and give or take the same scenario in other states. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan estimated last month 60% of Marylanders could be vaccinated by September. It seems overly optimistic considering under 9% of the population has received the first dose as of this week with 21,000 doses being administered on average daily across the state.
The situation on the micro level, such as in Worcester County, is representative of the widespread problems elsewhere. The online signup website excludes the most vulnerable among us because it’s not a facile process. Slots fill within minutes, leading to frustrations for many. Word of the new central waiting list addresses some concerns, but patience will be required. The waiting list is reportedly in the thousands and growing by the day because of a scant vaccine supply. Once she got through this week, one resident was given an estimation of six to 10 weeks before she is vaccinated dependent on supply.
It’s a difficult scenario for many, but a least the waiting list provides a sense of calm knowing you are in line, albeit virtually. It’s understandable to get irritated over the entire situation because the talking heads at the federal level have put tremendous hope on vaccinations and herd immunity carrying the country forward toward normalcy. There is a failure at the point of dissemination to the states. It’s widely acknowledged states are not getting enough doses to even adequately serve the public.
During his state of the state address Wednesday, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan addressed the issue, saying, “ … I have always been a straight shooter, so here’s the truth. Getting a vaccine to everyone who wants one will be a much longer and much more difficult process than any of us would like it to be. It is going to require a great deal of patience for many months while states continue to push the federal government and the manufacturers to increase the production and to drastically increase the allocations they provide to the states. …”
Reinstating the Boardwalk Tram for this summer in Ocean City is a positive indicator. Though modifications might be necessary for operations, what those specific changes will entail can be decided a couple weeks before the operation begins in late May.
Restrictions on gathering size and indoor restaurant and retail store capacities will be scaled back before summer. Regulations were eased before last summer and there is no reason to believe the same will not place this spring with improving metrics and more of the population vaccinated.
A huge step in the right direction for local restaurants and bars was last week’s decision by the governor to lift the mandated 10 p.m. closure for restaurants and bars. This move, timely for bars with the Super Bowl this weekend, coupled with the return of the trams this summer represent progress in the right direction. Though pandemic fatigue is real, it’s time for society to begin taking significant steps toward normalcy, albeit if there is some risk associated. To do otherwise is to let the pandemic win. An aggressive tact is the better play now to confirm better times lie ahead.
This is not the year to raise taxes and fees on anything. It would be nice to see governments embrace this concept. This year should be all about correction. It’s a time to get back to center and reintroduce concepts foreign in 2020 due to mandated changes to how society operates. It’s too early to tell how this year is going to play out for residents and businesses looking to recover financially, and the last thing government should do is make the journey more arduous by taking more from residents or business owners in the form of tax or fee increases.
In recent weeks, Ocean City has discussed increasing the room tax, which I think should be tabled. In Worcester County, there seem to be some flirtation with a fire tax or emergency services fee for property owners to address funding issues within the industry. Though an argument could be made some type of universal funding mechanism is needed to aid ailing fire companies, this is not the year to impose the fee. It’s the time to study options and evaluating changes for 2022
Statewide, the legislature is considering an 11% increase to the state’s sales tax on alcohol to fund health care disparities among minority communities. Currently, customers pay nine-cent tax on the dollar for booze. A plan in Annapolis would raise it to 10 cents effective October 2023. Will this be a major change and require bars and retail stores to up their prices immediately? Probably not as the profit margin is typically high on drinks and products, but it’s the message it sends from government that I loathe. Lawmakers in support are sneaky with the effective date two years out because they know the climate is not right for augmenting any costs. Here’s to hoping the bill gets tabled this session.