November 13, 2020
It has been a tumultuous last couple of weeks. Although Election Day is behind us with a clear President-Elect, the formal transfer of power has yet to start. As I said immediately after the race was called for President-Elect Biden and Vice-President Elect Harris (a glass ceiling shattering, historic moment in its own right), we must move forward, past hyper-partisanship that has defined the last four years, and begin mending ideological divisions. The civic fabric of our nation depends on it.
 
It has also never been more critical that the United States has a unified and trusted voice of leadership as COVID-19 cases are rising at an exponential rate in Maryland and across the country. The next few months will undoubtedly be difficult, but the pain that families, healthcare workers, and small businesses will feel can be alleviated through meaningful, cohesive guidance that prioritizes public health. I continue to reinforce that our economic health cannot be separated from controlling the spread of COVID-19.
 
As the Maryland General Assembly reconvenes in January, we recognize the high stakes of the 2021 Legislative Session. It is my sincere hope that we will have willing partners at the federal level by January who can put the needs of its residents, state and local governments, and governmental institutions above politics.
2.8 Million and Counting
Marylanders showed up in a big way this fall. More than 2.8 million of us (and counting) voted either in-person or by mail, with the majority of ballots cast before November 3rd. I am deeply appreciative of the many volunteers and employees who showed up for our democracy and staffed the polls day-after-day during this remarkable moment. They deserve our heartfelt gratitude.
 
My congratulations and best wishes go out to our newly elected Mayor Brandon Scott, City Council President Nick Mosby, Comptroller Bill Henry, and all those who will represent Baltimore City residents at all levels of government. I look forward to working with each of them to solve the many challenges confronting our City and State.
 
I am also thrilled that voters overwhelmingly approved two important statewide ballot questions this election. The first will allow for increased oversight and involvement in the budget process by allowing the legislature to shape how resources are allocated to respond to shifting priorities in the State, while providing the Governor with a line-item veto to ensure balance between the branches of government. The second measure creates a new funding source for Maryland schools by legalizing sports betting. Revenue from sports betting will underwrite key components of The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future and ensure our public school system is among the best in the world.
Re-Instituting Necessary Public Health Restrictions
Over 1,000 Marylanders have tested positive for COVID-19 each day for the past nine days—pushing the State’s positivity rate over five percent for the first time since June. Hospitalizations have correspondingly spiked dramatically and continue to rise at an alarming rate. Cases in Baltimore City are almost double the state-wide average, causing Mayor Young to order a return to Phase I mandates including limiting capacity in restaurants to 25% occupancy, banning gatherings of more than ten people, and requiring the wearing of masks anytime we are outside of our homes. These are necessary measures as recent metrics should worry us all.
 
I was also glad to see Governor Hogan’s decision to tighten restrictions statewide in response to these alarming numbers. The State must lead by example and coordination among jurisdictions is crucial as COVID-19 rates are on the rise everywhere. I firmly believe that we will need to be more aggressive in our efforts to bring down these in the coming weeks. 
 
In a bit of good news, the drug company Pfizer announced this week that its vaccine has a 90% effectiveness in clinical trials. The first round of doses may arrive as early as January for front-line workers and vulnerable Americans. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that a vaccine will be widely available to the general public until next spring and we must adjust our behavior accordingly.
 
While we wait, we have to be vigilant and push back on pandemic fatigue. Be sure to mask up for your protection and that of those around you, wash your hands, and maintain social distancing wherever possible.
Plans for Reopening the Maryland Senate
Last week, I released a comprehensive and science-based plan for reopening the Maryland Senate for the 2021 Legislative Session. The guidelines were developed in collaboration with public health experts, infectious disease specialists, and the Department of Legislative Services’ operations team.
  
While the process for public input will be different this year, it will be no less robust. All Floor proceedings, as well as committee hearings and voting sessions will be live-streamed. There will also be fewer Floor sessions at the beginning of Session to allow members as much time as possible to meet with constituents and advocacy groups virtually. Your expertise remains highly valued and necessary.
 
It has been a challenging task to balance our constitutional requirement to meet in Annapolis and the health and safety of our Senators and staff. This new world is not how we are used to conducting the State’s business, but the times demand it. You can be confident that the General Assembly will prioritize Maryland solutions that meet this moment. You can read the plan for yourself here.
New Grant Program for Baltimore City Restaurants
This has been an unimaginably challenging year for the restaurant industry. As we are approaching winter, Baltimore City has launched a $6.5 million Baltimore Restaurant Assistance Grant to help local restaurants get through the next few months.
 
Please help spread the word! The application period is currently open and will end on November 24th at 11:59pm.
 
Learn more about eligibility requirements and apply online here.
Learning Site Openings Slowed
Rising COVID-19 cases across the State are causing many school districts to rethink their reopening strategies. Baltimore City is still moving forward with its plans, although it will limit the number of facilities to 27 from the original goal of 44. 
 
A new coronavirus “dashboard” is now available in the City to allow the community to see the number of positive cases by school and inform them of any closures of learning sites. 
 
This second wave may slow reopening efforts for a few months as our highest priority must be the health and safety of our students and educators, but we must do everything we possibly can to serve students most in need of extra supports. 
Openings on City Board of School Commissioners
Baltimore City's Board of School Commissioners has opened online applications to fill two vacancies! 

The recruitment and application window runs through Wednesday, November 25 at 5pm. At that point, application review begins, followed by interviews with a community panel that will make recommendations for mayoral consideration and selection early in the new year. Because the recruitment and interview process extends beyond the November 3 election, recommended finalists will be presented for appointment after the transition to Baltimore’s next mayor.

More News
I had a great time last weekend in Baltimore Highlands at Council President Brandon Scott's weekend cleanup with Team46 and Henderson-Hopkins students and staff. Many hands made quick work!

I am deeply appreciative of the tireless work that Maryland Health Secretary Bobby Neall has engaged in for all Marylanders. While I am disappointed that the State will lose a strong public health leader when he retires on December 1st, I can think of very few people more deserving of his soon-to-be new found free time.

Maryland's own Ron Klain of Chevy Chase has been tapped by President-Elect Joe Biden to serve as the White House Chief of Staff in his incoming administration. I applaud the choice as Klain's experience managing the Ebola crisis and deep understanding of our federal government will be invaluable in the coming months.
 
The Maryland Department of Health launched its MD COVID Alert system Tuesday as part of its contact tracing effort across the State. The alert system uses Bluetooth technology to track its users and notify them if they have been exposed to someone who tested positive for the virus. Privacy is safeguarded through using Bluetooth instead of GPS location, and identifying users with random IDs that change every 10-20 minutes. The app is compatible on iPhones and Android phones. For more information on the app and how to download it, click here.

Purpose Built Communities is seeking an enthusiastic leader to make a sustainable impact in the revitalization of the Cherry Hill community. The Community Quarterback Founding Executive Director will work closely with the Cherry Hill community to determine the vision of the revitalization effort and coordinate all the necessary stakeholders: housing, education and community wellness. The posting can be found here.

Open Society Institute-Baltimore, announced its 2020 cohort of “community fellows” on Tuesday. Twelve individuals were selected from more than 150 applicants and will receive $60,000 over 18 months to work on local projects designed to address problems in Baltimore’s underserved communities.
Please do not hesitate to contact my office if there is anything we can do to help via email at bill.ferguson@senate.state.md.us, or phone via 410-841-3600.