Route 1 Reporter has compiled information about the current state of the coronavirus outbreak in Prince George’s County. Below, starting at the Federal level, is a summary of the weekend’s pandemic response news for the federal, state, county and municipal levels in Prince George’s County.
Gatherings of more than 50 people should be cancelled for the next eight weeks, according to new guidance issued March 15, 2020, by the Centers for Disease Control. Here’s a link to the full guidance.
The CDC’s official coronavirus information website is https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/
Maryland announced over the weekend it revamped the state’s official coronavirus information hub to be more accessible. The website is coronavirus.maryland.gov.
31 cases had been reported in Maryland as of 11:30 p.m., March 15, 2020.
Also March, 15, officials announced the first confirmed case in Baltimore.
Maryland casinos, racetracks closed
Governor Larry Hogan issued an executive order closing all racetracks and casinos in Maryland. He also called upon restaurateurs to shut down operations, without saying so directly. Rather:
Prince George’s County Update
Nine confirmed cases have been reported in Prince George’s County as of 11:30 p.m., March 15, 2020.
Prince George’s County’s official cornonavirus information hub is https://www.princegeorgescountymd.gov/3397/Coronavirus
County government changes
County officials announced Friday that all county agencies have implemented “responsible teleworking options” for employees. All in-person meetings of county government boards and commissions have been suspended. These organs of government are instructed to meet by teleconference. Access to county buildings is now restricted to county employees only.
A comprehensive review of the most-recent changes to county government operations can be found on Prince George’s County’s officials coronavirus information page, linked here.
School’s closed, lunch is served
Prince George’s County Public School system, along with other school systems in the state, are closed at least until March 27. County officials say they are prepared to distribute pre-packaged school lunches, grab-and-go-style, from the following schools weekdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.:
- Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, Beltsville
- William Wirt Middle School, Riverdale Park
- Nicholas Orem Middle School, Hyattsville
- Kenmoor Middle School, Landover
- Benjamin Tasker Middle School, Bowie
- Walker Mill Middle School, Capitol Heights
- Drew Freeman Middle School, Hillcrest Heights
- Thurgood Marshall Middle School, Temple Hills
- Stephen Decatur Middle School, Clinton
Telephone town hall
Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks will be holding a telephone town hall March 17, 2020, at 6:30 p.m. to provide an update on the county’s response to the pandemic. In order to participate in that town hall, residents must register their phone number using the online form available at this link. The call will also be broadcast on the county government-access cable TV channels.
Riverdale Park Mayor says residents aren’t taking outbreak seriously
Riverdale Park Mayor Alan Thompson took to Twitter March 14, 2020, to encourage his constituents to take the coronavirus pandemic seriously by taking steps to limit their contact with large groups. In a 27-tweet thread, Thompson said he has “been taking walks around town over the last few days and have personally observed that the CDC recommendations for social distancing are not being followed.”
“Please do so in the future,” Thompson wrote. “People’s lives are in the balance.”
“The town could potentially lose dozens of residents,” wrote Thompson.
Confusion for one symptomatic resident
Danielle McLean, a journalist at the Chronicle of Higher Education, reported on Twitter March 14, 2020, a catch-22 situation with Prince George’s County health-care agencies and providers as she tried to get attention for suspected coronavirus symptoms:
Berwyn Heights Mayor Stephen Isler declared a local emergency March 13, 2020, cancelled all meetings and town events, and closed the town’s senior center until at least March 31, 2020. The Berwyn Heights Town Hall and the Police Department administrative office will remain open, but residents are encouraged to access services electronically, through the mail or via telephone. The full announcement can be read here.
Berwyn Heights tweets frequently about its response to the coronavirus outbreak. They can be followed at @BerywnHeightsMD. Berwyn Heights does not appear to have a coronavirus information hub on its website, but it has been posting updates on the site’s announcement feed.
On March 13, Bladensburg officials announced they will restrict public access to all town buildings through at least March 31. All town events have been suspended.
Bladensburg does not appear to have posted any information about its coronavirus response on its city website. A search of the city website for “coronavirus” or “covid-19” produces no results.
Bladensburg, over the past week, has been tweeting frequently about its response to the coronavirus pandemic. The city’s Twitter handle is @BladensburgMD.
As of March 13, Bowie officials announced a host of changes to operational procedures designed to limit public access to city facilities. You can read that announcement at this link. Notable: City Council will continue to meet, but residents are “encouraged” to watch the meetings online and submit public comment by text message or emailing video comments to the city clerk.
Bowie maintains a city coronavirus response information hub at the following link: cityofbowie.org/corona
Bowie has also been actively tweeting about the situation over the past week. The city’s Twitter handle is @CityofBowie.
On March 13, the town of Brentwood announced a slate of changes to procedures to fight the coronavirus pandemic. All events are cancelled. Property inspections have been suspended. Appointments will be needed to meet with town staff.
The town has been posting updates to its website. However, the town’s March 13 announcement was posted as an image, and not as a text-based document that could be read by a screen reader used by individuals with vision impairments. As a result, it appears to violate the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements that communications with the public be accessible to those with vision or hearing impairments.
Brentwood does not maintain a Twitter account.
Cheverly announced March 14 that it has cancelled all in-person town-sponsored events through at least March 31. Access to town facilities is restricted.
Cheverly has been regularly posting updates to its website. It also maintains an active Facebook page where it has been posting updates. It does not maintain a Twitter account.
Due to the highly-variable way in which it algorithmically populates its users’ news feed, Facebook is considered to be a less-reliable social medium for communicating messages to populations that don’t already interact with a given account or subject matter.
On March 12, College Park officials announced a slate of event closures. The full announcement is here. The city said, however, the following services will continue as scheduled:
- Mayor and Council meetings;
- Police patrols and emergency response;
- Regular refuse, recycling and special trash collections;
- Seniors Transportation Services for essential trips;
- Code compliance and inspections;
- Parking enforcement; and
- Department of Public Works April Cleanup Saturdays.
The city has not been particularly active on social media about its coronavirus response. College Park is @CollegePark_MD on Twitter, but it tends to tweet infrequently. The city does not appear to have a coronavirus information hub on its website, but it does post announcements there.
Colmar Manor, Cottage City
Colmar Manor hasn’t done much on social media to discuss any specifics of its coronavirus response. Nevertheless, it can be found on Twitter at @ColmarManorMD. As of this writing, the last tweet from the town was a re-tweet of a March 10, 2020, message from Alsobrooks about the first confirmed-case of the disease in the county. Same with its Facebook page. On its website, it merely links to the county’s information pages about the pandemic. The city’s website advertises upcoming town meetings in early April.
Cottage City has cancelled at least two events, but according to its website, is still advertising a March 16, 2020, budget meeting at the police department. Its Twitter hasn’t been active since 2014. The city has been more active on Facebook, but its activity there has been mostly limited to sharing county, state and federal coronavirus updates.
District Heights, as of March 15, 2020, appears to have shared no information about its coronavirus response. The city’s Facebook page hasn’t been updated since March 3. The Twitter account linked from the city’s website appears to have been hacked two years ago by a sunglasses spammer. The city’s website still advertises a city council meeting on March 24, 2020.
Eagle Harbor has posted links to CDC information about the pandemic to its town website, but that’s about it. If town officials run Facebook or Twitter pages, Route 1 Reporter is unable to locate them.
Forest Heights announced March 12 it would be postponing a planned Census event on March 21, 2020. Other than that, the city has provided little specific information about its own coronavirus response beyond fact sheets from state and county officials. You can find the city’s Twitter account at @ForestHeightsMD. It is also on Facebook.
The city of Glenarden appears to have shared no information about its coronavirus response on its city website. The city’s Twitter account hasn’t been active since late 2019. The city’s Facebook page hasn’t shared much beyond reposts of county and state-level coronavirus information.
Greenbelt has restricted access to all public buildings, and just about all events and public facilities are closed through at least March 27. A full rundown of the city’s closures can be found on the city’s local cornonavirus information hub. Greenbelt has been very active on Twitter, providing regular updates on its local response.
Hyattsville has cancelled or postponed all events through April 4, with the exception of City Council meetings. A City Council meeting is scheduled for March 16, 2020. Residents are encouraged to watch the meeting by webcast or government-access cable channels.
The city maintains a Twitter account, but has so far not posted much there about its coronavirus response beyond the above Tweet.
Hyattsville city police announced March 15, 2020, they will begin following new protocols for dealing with the public. The new measures include screening callers to determine if they have been exposed to, or are displaying symptoms from, the novel coronavirus. Non-emergency reports will be handled remotely by phone for crimes no longer in progress or where no suspect is present. Fingerprinting services, ride-along program and in-person meetings are suspended.
“We will continue our response to emergency calls for service,” reads the announcement. “In some instances, you may be asked to meet our officer outside of your location for the purpose of social distancing.”
Specific of the town of Landover Hills’ hyperlocal response to coronavirus are unknown. The town maintains a Facebook page, but has mostly just shared announcements from other agencies. The town’s website is unsecure. The city does not appear to maintain a Twitter account.
The city of Laurel has made major changes to its operations, including closing or restricting access to several facilities and cancelling events through at least March 27. The city has been posting detailed updates to its website.
Laurel city officials have been very active on social media regarding the city’s hyperlocal coronavirus response. In addition to posting regular updates on its Twitter and Facebook accounts, Laurel is unique among Prince George’s County because it operates its own Office of Emergency Management to coordinate disaster response in the town. That office has its own social media organs as well, which it has been using to regularly communicate with the public.
It’s hard to say what Morningside is specifically doing regarding coronavirus. Someone is paying attention to the news, there, however. The city’s Facebook page and website share the same stream of copy-pasted news articles about a variety of topics that, of late, have included articles about coronavirus. But none of them seem to have anything specific to do about the town of Morningside.
Mount Rainier officials have cancelled all public meetings except for City Council meetings. The public, however, is encouraged to watch those meetings remotely through MRTV or the city’s Facebook Live Stream. A full summary of the city’s response can be found on Mount Rainier’s website. The city has created a coronavirus hub to disseminate information about its response. In the past week, city officials have become very active on social media sharing links to county, state and federal information on the outbreak on Twitter and Facebook.
On March 12, Mount Rainier chief of police Anthony Morgan said in a message on Facebook that the city police department will continue to respond to calls.
“That may change is how we interact with the public. We may reach a point that out of an abundance of caution an officer may put on gloves before they shake your hand,” reads Morgan’s message. “We are providing gloves, goggles and a bacterial mask for our staff to wear. So please don’t take some changes to interactions as being rude. That is not our intent. I want ensure to the greatest extent possible that officers remain healthy. To that end all events at the police departments community room have been suspended. If any changes are made to our operations, we will report that in a timely manner.”
New Carrollton’s City Council will continue to meet, but the public will not be allowed to attend. All other city events for the forseable future are cancelled, as well as the senior food program. A full detail of the city’s response to the pandemic can be found here.
North Brentwood officials announced its planned March 16, 2020, Town Council meeting will be a conference call. Details for the conference call dial-in are on the city’s website. Other specifics about the town’s response to the coronavirus are unknown. The town hall operates out of the Gwendolyn Britt Senior Activity Center.
Riverdale Park city officials announced March 13, 2020, that upcoming events have been cancelled.
On March 12, 2020, Seat Pleasant city officials announced public facilities are closed to visitors until further notice and upcoming events were cancelled.
University Park normally conducts its City Council meetings at University Park Elementary School. But because of the closure of school facilities, the town is moving its March 16, 2020, meeting to the town hall on Baltimore Avenue University Park is encouraging residents to attend that meeting by conference call. However, they said the meeting is still open to the public.
Other than that, the town hasn’t released much information on its hyperlocal pandemic response.
Upper Marlboro officials are encouraging city workers to telework if they can. Visitors to town officers are now closed through April 6, 2020, as are all town meetings. Unique among Prince George’s municipalities, Upper Marlboro is making all on-street metered parking free through April 6 as well. A full summary of the town’s local response is here.