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Pittman: AAC begins "long process of reopening"

Updated: Jul 8, 2020

Transcript from Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman's introduction from the "Build Back Better: Small Business" teleconference on May 19, 2020

"This is our weekly show where we are addressing topics related to the Coronavirus pandemic, and how we're handling that in Anne Arundel County. I think we did eight town halls--virtual weekly town halls--starting at the beginning of this whole experience. Then we shifted over to issue-by-issue discussions with panelists that we select from the community.

And we've done mental health. We've done nutritional assistance, and we've done affordable housing and rental assistance. Eviction prevention was our last one.

Tonight we're going to talk about small business, and what's happening in our communities with our small businesses, and what we as local government can do to help out.

Before I get into that, I want to just tell what we're not going to talk about, which is the policies, this won't be the focus., I'm happy to address this. And if there are questions about it, I'll answer them. when we get into the question part.

But the orders that we are under, the governor's orders that closed essential businesses in the state, are still in effect. There was some loosening of those orders announced last Wednesday. The central Maryland counties either opted not to go as far as the governor offered, or didn't move at all.

The governor told all of us that we should not move forward if we didn't have the support of our health officers, (if) we didn't think it was the right thing to do. So now we have counties in the state moving at slightly different paces. And really that does impact retail businesses.

The governor, we thought was going to say retail could be open to curbside pickup, (but) ended up announcing that 50% capacity would be allowed. We went with curbside pickup in the county. In the in the city of Annapolis they went with one person allowed in, but acknowledged that sometimes that might be a couple.

That all just happened at the end of last week. There's still a ban on gatherings in the state, governors ban on gatherings of more than 10 people. The exceptions to that are now in some retail establishments and in and in houses of worship. And we had expected him to announce that there would be outdoor religious activities with social distancing of limited sizes. And then the next day found that it was going to be 50% capacity, based on the fire code, which can be quite a large number.

So after consultation with our health officer, on 24-hours notice we had to make a decision that we would not go all the way. We would allow curbside pickup that had not been allowed before--retail businesses. (which is) not that much help, I understand, to a lot of retail businesses, especially when we've got the essential retail businesses like the big box stores completely open--so absolutely not fair. And (it is) something that we're talking to the governor's office about, trying to get changed, and trying to get fixed with something that's more consistent.

The question about churches and religious gatherings--our health officer was very clear. That was one one area where, around the country, there had been a lot of cases where funerals had taken place and where larger gatherings had taken place outside of the borders. (He) was not comfortable yet moving beyond 10 people in the church. So we did open it up to gatherings of as many as 10 people. Small groups could come in and meet with their pastor's and that sort of thing.

And then the third area that has been controversial, and is something that has me thinking very hard right now, is what to do about beauty salons and barbershops. The work is very close, obviously, to the to the person that's getting a haircut.

We opened that up from what the governor had said before, which was that you could get a haircut if you had a letter from your saying you no longer need that, but still wanted time in the establishment.

I can honestly say that these were the most difficult decisions that I've had to make as county executives in the shortest amount of time, because we had to...make those decisions in 24 hours.

Then what I did was follow up with that say I needed to convene a group that would be a sounding board for these kinds of decisions. We don't know what the governor's going to To do going forward in terms of additional opening and when it's going to happen. So we need to have in place, interest groups there that I can at least go to with the health officer.

So, tomorrow morning, we're having the very first meeting of our Recovery Working Group

(see Facebook post below). That includes it includes a representative from the chambers (of commerce). From the county. It includes the head of our economic development corporation board representing business. It also includes leaders of our two hospitals--Anne Arundel and Baltimore-Washington medical centers. And (it) includes a representative from organized labor, a representatives from the faith community--a pastor. And (the working group includes) one Democrat and one Republican from the county council, and myself.

So we will be reviewing the decisions that were made. And we will be looking each week at the metrics that come out when they do come out from the health department. And we will be continuing to communicate with the state, and with our neighbors in and other counties. This is gonna be a long process of reopening. And nobody can say exactly when what is going to happen, because there are so many factors that are outside of our control."