Prince George’s County Coronavirus Daily Digest: Managing expectations

Route 1 Reporter has compiled information from the past day about the hyperlocal effects of the coronavirus pandemic in Prince George’s County. Today’s edition covers the events of March 16. Below is a rundown of the new announcements from state, local and city leaders in Prince George’s County. Federal update:

According to the Centers for Disease Control, there have been 3,487 total documented or under-investigation cases of novel coronavirus in the United States as of 4 p.m. March 16. There have 68 deaths in the United States so far.

Coronavirus upends Prince George’s County life; Take action now

Coronavirus is moving through Prince George’s County “among people who are not particularly ill or showing symptoms,” according to Prince George’s County Health, Human Services, and Education Deputy Chief and pediatrician Dr. George Askew. Thursday, county officials said residents should take immediate precautions to limit social contact and prepare for serious disruptions to their daily lives. “The best way to address it is through non-pharmaceutical intervention; social distancing…increased levels of social distancing,” said Askew. “Close down events where large crowds might be. Close down smaller events even.”

Prince George’s new fire chief breaks glass ceiling

Prince George’s County’s 13th fire chief is Tiffany Green, the first woman to hold the position. Green was sworn in Tuesday at a ceremony in Upper Marlboro, fetted by county officials including County Executive Angela Alsobrooks. 

Green is a 21-year veteran of the Prince George’s County Fire and EMS Department. She succeeds Benjamin Barksdale, who retired in 2019. 

“When I started in this department in 1999, the concept of a female fire chief was unheard of,” said Green during remarks after her swearing in. “I am honored to be your fire chief. I have sat where you are.

News blues: Prince George’s Sentinel newspaper closes, leaving big hole in local coverage

The Prince George’s Sentinel newspaper is gone. The Sentinel, which had covered the county for nearly 90 years, joined its Montgomery County sister paper and published their final editions Thursday. The move was announced earlier in January by publisher Lynn Kapiloff, who said the twin papers had not been profitable for more than a decade. 

Now, suddenly, vast swaths of Prince George’s County have become a true news desert, with no reliable source of professional reporting on public affairs. While the quality and consistency of the Prince George’s Sentinel’s reporting left something to be desired, the Seabrook-based paper reliably dispatched journalists to all corners of the county in search of news. In the last two weeks alone, its journalists filed stories eminating from Greenbelt, Hyattsville, Upper Marlboro, Temple Hills, Oxon Hill, College Park, Bowie, New Carrolton, and Lanham.

Hyattsville pushed to share police shooting body-cam video

Hyattsville city officials say they are open to allowing Mount Rainier city officials to review video from Hyattsville police body cameras showing the events leading up to the fatal police shooting of Leonard Shand. The move comes after Mount Rainier City Councilor Scott Cecil, speaking during public comment at Hyattsville’s Jan. 6, 2019, City Council meeting, complained that Hyattsville officials had not responded to earlier requests from himself and Mount Rainier Chief of Police Anthony Morgan to review the footage, which had already been screened by Hyattsville city officials to members of Hyattsville’s City Council and to the president of the Prince George’s Count NAACP. 

“Many local residents were horrified, confused and concerned by this incident. They’re looking for transparency, which is rooted in civilian oversight from each of us,” said Cecil during the meeting. “I’ve reviewed the body camera footage from our officer on two occasions and I’m left with many questions.

A photo, taken from the center lane of the Baltimore Avenue-slash-Route 1 corridor looking directly south from the intersection of Oglethorpe Street and Baltimore Avenue, shows an urban vista. The green hills of Bladensburg are in the far distance, set against a cloudy evening sky and above a ribbon of roadway. Nearer to the photographer, an urban streetscape reveals row-houses and mid-rise commercial buildings south of Madison Street set against tree-lined sidewalks. Light traffic is seen on the roadway.

Prince George’s traffic deaths rose sharply in 2019

2019 was a much deadlier year on Prince George’s County roadways, according to data from the Prince George’s County Police Department. Traffic deaths across the entire county rose 76 percent in 2019, climbing from 38 total deaths in 2018 to 67 in 2019. Among those 67 deaths are 21 pedestrians killed by motorists, up 40 percent from 15 pedestrian deaths in 2018. The remaining 46 traffic deaths in 2019 in Prince George’s County were non-pedestrians. 

It is unclear from year-end police statistics provided to Route 1 Reporter how many cyclists were among the last two years’ traffic fatalities. Prince George’s County Police Department’s records do not break out cyclist incidents into their own category, according to a police spokesperson.

Prince George’s unemployment ticks down in September

By Amelia Jarecke

The Prince George’s County unemployment is down compared to last September, matching the lowest rate the county has seen in the past year, according to the Department of Labor statistics released at the end of last month. The 3.6 percent unemployment rate for this September compared to a rate of 3.8 percent in the same month a year earlier. The last time the county’s unemployment rate dropped to 3.6 percent was in April. This January, the county’s unemployment rate climbed to 4.7 percent. Since then it has fluctuated, but now is one-tenth of a percent below the unemployment rate of the entire state. 

Maryland’s unemployment rate of 3.7 percent matches the lowest level the state has experienced in the past decade, according to the Department of Labor.