Prince George’s County limits free covid testing

Several Prince George’s County residents say they were recently denied free coronavirus tests from the county Department of Health because of a little-known rule limiting free tests to one-per person. 

The rule surprised County Councilor Deni Taveras, who represents Langley Park and Adelphi neighborhoods hit hard by the pandemic. Taveras said she was denied a test Aug. 5, 2020, at the Rollingcrest Community Center in Chillum because she had already received a free test. One county resident who previously received three tests through the health department, also was turned away from Rollingcrest this week for similar reasons. Another resident, a teacher in Prince George’s County Schools, 

County officials provided little additional information about the policy.

Low demand for College Park coronavirus relief

College Park set aside $1.7 million to assist residents and businesses dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. But so far, few have availed themselves of the grant program. According to city manager Scott Somers, the city has only processed 28 small-business assistance grants totaling $47,400 plus 18 family assistance program grants totaling approximately $6,200. “I was surprised at how low that was,” Somers said during College Park’s Aug. 4, 2020, City Council meeting.

Hurricaine Isaias closes Prince George’s Covid test sites

In anticipation of heavy winds and rains from Hurricaine Isaias, Prince George’s County Covid-19 testing sits will be closed Aug. 4, 2020. As of this time, all testing sites are scheduled to reopen for normal hours on Aug. 5, 2020. Editor’s note:Route 1 Reporter is – normally – a subscriber-supported local news website.

As Prince George’s lags in Census response, a last-ditch push to be counted

With news that the Census may cut-short its door-to-door data collection, Prince George’s County officials are urging residents to take matters into their own hands and self-report their Census info by phone or online. Prince George’s County lags well behind state averages and behind other suburban-metro Maryland counties when it comes to Census response rates, with only an estimated 64.7 percent of county huoseholds responding as of Aug 3, 2020. Statewide, 66.9 percent of Marylanders have responded to the Census. 

Within Prince George’s County, areas inside the Beltway, such as Chillum, Langley Park, East Riverdale, Landover, and Hillcrest Heights, lag well behind other county Census tracts when it comes to Census response rates. Prince George’s County will host a covid-conscious Census completion and food, medical and school-supply distribution event at Ebenezer Church of God at 7550 Buchanan Street in Landover Hills on Aug. 8, 2020 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. During this event, county officials will provide free meals, backpacks, school supplies, personal protective equipment, Census swag and information.

Data: Coronavirus growing in rural Maryland

Coronavirus is on the rebound in Maryland and – to a lesser extent – in Prince George’s County, according to official state numbers. This surge in cases is being driven by growing outbreaks in rural areas of Maryland, according to an analysis by Route 1 Reporter. In particular, exurban communities in central Maryland and along the Chesapeake Bay’s western shores have seen the number of positive tests increase most-dramatically since July 1. Meanwhile, urban areas closer to Washington D.C., hard-hit by the virus early on, have seen far less-dramatic changes in the number of new positive coronavirus cases. !function(){“use strict”;window.addEventListener(“message”,(function(a){if(void 0!==a.data[“datawrapper-height”])for(var e in a.data[“datawrapper-height”]){var t=document.getElementById(“datawrapper-chart-“+e)||document.querySelector(“iframe[src*='”+e+”‘]”);t&&(t.style.height=a.data[“datawrapper-height”][e]+”px”)}}))}();

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As of July 21, Total cases have risen to 79,545 across the state, and include 3,402 deaths.

Prelim plans for Cheverly Amazon facility approved

Prince George’s County Planning Board unanimously approved preliminary plans for a massive Amazon warehouse facility just outside Cheverly. Built on nearly 18 acres of land, the project – dubbed Washington Gateway – will see a one-story, 172,200 square-foot “last mile distribution center” built near the intersection of Columbia Park Road and Cabin Branch Drive southeast of Cheverly. 

The vote took place at the Planning Board’s July 16, 2020 meeting. The project, from industrial developer Prologis, has been controversial in Cheverly, with neighbors in the town’s fourth word concerned about possible traffic impacts from the distribution facility. You can read more about their concerns here. Kayce Munyeneh, Cheverly’s Ward Four City Councilor noted a small neighborhood of 50 homes is near the site of the proposed facility. 

“Our primary concern is safety and making sure that Amazon trucks do not decide to use 62nd and 62st as a cut-through,” said Munyeneh during the meeting.

850 apartments, townhomes approved in Hyattsville

The Prince George’s County Planning Board unanimously approved detailed plans for a large mixed-use apartment complex with 850 units near University Town Center in Hyattsville. Dubbed the Dewey Development, the project will eventually encompass 21.6 acres near the intersection of Toledo and Belcrest Roads in Hyattsville and will feature townhomes, two mixed-use apartment buildings, and a large stormwater management pond that will collect runoff from the surrounding neighborhood. 

The votes, split across two measures, took place at the Planning Board’s July 16, 2020, meeting. One of the buildings will be a a five-story, mixed-use multifamily building consisting of 321 housing units and 1,258 square feet of ground-floor retail along Toledo Road. It also includes a 334-unit parking garage and a courtyard with a pool. The other half of the project features 529 multifamily units.

A middle-aged African-American woman with gray hair and a white, short-sleeved shirt sits at a table during a meeting of some kind.

Robinson sues Mount Rainier for $1.5 million over alleged ‘racist’ records request blowback

Charnette Robinson is suing the city of Mount Rainier for $1.5 million. The suit alleges Robinson’s rights were violated in 2019 when City Councilor Celina Benitez issued an open letter on social media characterizing an earlier Public Information Act records request from Robinson as “a racist pursuit.” Robinson’s records request, filed February 2019, sought a variety of documents regarding city officials, including information about the citizenship status of city elected officials. In a March 2019 open letter, Benitez – a Hispanic immigrant and naturalized citizen – described the records request as “no better than a racist pursuit for a president’s birth certificate.” These incidents occurred in the run-up to the May 2019 Mount Rainier City Council elections, which saw Robinson challenge the incumbent Benitez for her Ward One seat.

Data: See which Prince George’s businesses got Paycheck Protection Loans

As the coronavirus delivered a shock to the local economy, 9,442 Prince George’s County businesses and nonprofits received emergency loans from the Paycheck Protection Program, including 1,447 loans valued between $150,000 to $10 million, according to data released by the Small Business Administration last week. Below this article, Route 1 Reporter presents a database that allows you to search for any Prince George’s County entity that received loans greater than $150,000 under the program. 

The official dataset has been criticized for not providing enough information about the loans. For example: information on loans greater than $150,000 identifies the recipients by name, but only provides a broad range for the loan each received, in buckets ranging from between $150,000 to $350,000 to the top-tier, which received loans of between $5 million and $10 million. Meanwhile, exact dollar amounts for loans less than $150,000 were noted for every recipient, but their names were kept under wraps. 

Additionally, transparency advocates – as well as many loan recipients – have complained the data released by the SBA contains inaccuracies. In particular, SBA officials said inconsistent data-collection practices show many loan recipients to reporting zero jobs were retained with the funds.

Q2 sees prime Route 1 properties trade hands

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, it’s been a busy few months for property sales along the Route 1 corridor in Prince George’s County. Several major commercial and multi-family properties have traded hands in the second quarter of the year, according to state property records. The biggest transaction of the quarter in the Route 1 corridor belongs to Varsity Apartments in College Park, which traded hands for $146,022,026 in a sale recorded March 27, 2020. The 900-bed property was bought by Greystar Properties from American Campus Communities. Greystar Properties also plans a 343-unit student housing development on Knox Road in College Park.