City officials across Prince George’s County generally gave high marks to state and county emergency communication efforts so far during the local coronavirus pandemic.
“I feel all levels of government, from the state down, are being very responsive,” said Colmar Manor Mayor Sandara Barrow, in an email. But she pushed for more information about whereabouts of individuals infected with coronavirus.
“The counties are able to know if there are cases in their jurisdiction, but at this time the municipal jurisdictions are not,” said Barrow in an email.
Several contacted for this article singled out Gov. Larry Hogan for praise, commending him for issuing executive orders to try and stem the pandemic in Maryland.
“I think the Hogan administration is doing an excellent job. Their executive orders have been well thought out and decisive,” said Berwyn Heights Town Administrator Maria Broadbent. “It takes some time to continually reevaluate the situation and to consult with experts, before issuing an updated order. I think they are getting us information as fast as they can.”
“Kudos is extended to Governor Larry Hogan,” said North Brentwood Mayor Petrella Robinson in an email.
College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn praised Prince George’s County’s outreach to its municipalities, but said state officials could still do more to open lines of direct coordination with cities.
“The information I’ve received this week from the state has largely been through the governor’s press conferences, with little guidance to the city about our role in ensuring social distancing and other measures are followed,” said Wojahn.
A similar issue in Riverdale Park caused that city’s Thursday farmer’s market to be cancelled. It shouldn’t have been, though, because the executive order exempts grocers and food markets from the public gathering ban. Riverdale Park Mayor Alan Thompson said it was hard to access state guidance on public gatherings and canceled the market out of an abundance of caution. The market will return next week.
Spanish outreach needs work
County Councilor Deni Taveras, whose district includes heavily hispanic areas of Langley Park, Hyattsville and Mount Rainier, said Prince George’s County’s outreach efforts to Spanish-speaking residents during the pandemic left room for improvement.
“This speaks to a tangible need for language-access in the county,” said Taveras.
She said a historic lack of Spanish-language outreach by county agencies and public officials to the county’s hispanic community is a roadblock from day one.
“If we are expecting to have that outreach now just because it’s bilingual, that’s not going to happen,” said Taveras.
Over the course of the past week, Taveras noted Prince George’s County agencies and County Executive Angela Alsoobrooks have begun to issue announcements in English and Spanish on social media. County officials also held a Spanish-language town hall and have opened lines of communication with Spanish-speaking churches across the county.
School response praised
Taveras also praised efforts by Prince George’s County Public Schools officials, who had to deal with the knock-on effects of a statewide school system shutdown which began last week. In particular, she praised the expansion of the County’s grab-and-go school meals hubs from 11 to 36 schools in the span of a week. According to Taveras, those sites distributed 10,602 meals last week.
“I think the school system is doing excellent,” said Taveras.
Likewise for Bowie City Councilor Adrian Boafo, who said the school system has been very responsive to residents.
“They’ve done a really good job informing parents, teachers and students, and setting up the meals program,” said Boafo.
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