Baltimore News Updates from Independent & Regional Media 12/3

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This week’s news includes: A different kind of room service at the Lord Baltimore, city leaders encourage Hogan to veto Blueprint, COVID cases continue to creep up, and more reporting from Greater Greater Washington, Wired, WMAR, and others.



Photos by Matthew P. D’Agostino, M.A., University of Maryland, Baltimore

Checking Out of Hotel COVID
by Gregg Wilhelm
Published November 30 in Baltimore Magazine

Excerpt: In darkness, I feel my way from bedroom to kitchen hugging the outside wall like liquid in a centrifuge. The place is strange, gray, and round like a spaceship, alien. As I tap through the living room into the hallway toward the kitchen, an orange laser beam shoots through a window and startles me closer to consciousness.

The radiant sliver widens over the Lego-like apartments at 225 North Calvert between St. Paul Plaza and the Blaustein Building at One North Charles. Then I remember: we are 21 stories above Baltimore, in a circular penthouse with windows open to every direction, and I just traveled from the shaded westside to dawn’s early light in the east.

My wife, two daughters, and I are in Hotel COVID, known prior to this pandemic as the Lord Baltimore.



Del. Stephanie M. Smith (D), chair of the Baltimore City House delegation, which heard from residents Tuesday night about their priorities for the 2021 General Assembly session. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

Baltimore City Residents Seek Police Accountability Measures, More Education Funding in Next Session
by Elizabeth Shwe
Published December 2 in Maryland Matters

Excerpt: Baltimore City leaders and residents are calling on their state representatives to ensure police accountability and to override Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr.’s (R) veto on the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future bill to reform public schools in the upcoming General Assembly session.

“We have to override the governor’s shortsighted veto [on Blueprint for Maryland’s Future],” Baltimore mayor-elect Brandon M. Scott (D) told the Baltimore City legislative delegation in a public hearing Tuesday evening. “Our students need to learn in environments worthy of their promise and we all know that has not been the case.”

“The events of this year have made it more clear for us that on the forefront, reimagining public safety must be a top priority,” he continued. He also asked state lawmakers to support reforming the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights and to help city officials with group violence reduction strategies and to confront gun trafficking in the city.



Image by the author.

As winter approaches, can Fells Point keep its outdoor dining going?
by Alex Holt
Published December 1 in Greater Greater Washington

Excerpt: It’s been five months since Fells Point dusted off its “Fells Point Al Fresco” series of outdoor dining nights from last summer and turned it into a daily program to help the historic waterfront neighborhood in Southeast Baltimore and its restaurants and businesses survive the economic challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

That program, which consists of closing portions of two of the neighborhood’s main thoroughfares, Thames Street and South Broadway, off to automotive traffic and installing parklets for dining, has shown considerable success. It allowed bars and restaurants to more safely open back up before the State of Maryland or Baltimore City allowed indoor dining to resume and it’s added business for those bars and restaurants who would otherwise have been more constrained by indoor dining capacity limits.

It’s also encouraged customers to patronize local businesses and restaurants and provided a welcome break from traffic for area residents. It’s even inspired similar experiments in neighborhoods all over the city.

At the same time, Fells Point Al Fresco has also drawn its fair share of mixed feelings and even some mild backlash over concerns about access to parking, changes in street closure boundaries, communication, and community input. Many of these issues, have drawn differing reactions from retail businesses than they have from bar or restaurant owners or from other neighborhood residents. But in a neighborhood where many of those lines frequently blur, COVID cases rise, and with winter further complicating outdoor dining, how these issues are addressed could go a long way towards determining how programs like Fells Point’s move forward and what those neighborhoods prioritize.




Thanksgiving COVID-19 Infections May Pop, Immunologist Warns
by Sarah Y. Kim
Published December 2 in WYPR

Excerpt: Nearly half of Marylanders planned to gather indoors for Thanksgiving, despite warnings from public health experts that those gatherings may exacerbate the latest surge in COVID-19 cases, according to a University of Maryland Medical System survey last week.

Now, Dr. Chris Thompson, an immunologist and Associate Professor of Biology at Loyola University Maryland, said we’re about to see whether there will be consequences to those decisions.

“We’re in the time frame when we’re going to see them pop up and I fear for the hospitals,” he said on WYPR’s podcast The Daily Dose.

He said most people start showing COVID-19 symptoms four to six days after getting infected.

See also:

Majority of Baltimore Residents Not Vaccinated Against Flu, Despite “Twindemic” Fears
by Sarah Y. Kim
Published December 1 in WYPR



Differences over the handling of last week’s BCPS ransomware attack have strained relations between Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. and School Superintendent Darryl L. Williams.

Baltimore County Attorney warns school administration not to negotiate with hackers
by Ann Costantino
Published December 2 in Baltimore Brew

Excerpt: A top Baltimore County official has warned school administrators not to pay ransom to the cyber-criminals who infected the Baltimore County Public Schools computer network last week, pointing out the group could be on a federal government watch list.

The school system’s apparent willingness to engage the hackers has created tension with others, including Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski, who feels his administration has been shut out of the process, multiple sources tell The Brew.

The county’s top lawyer informed BCPS in a letter that acceding to ransom demands could expose Baltimore County, as well as the school system, to “severe penalties” by the federal government.

The letter was sent to school system General Counsel Margaret-Ann F. Howie by County Attorney James R. Benjamin Jr.

Benjamin’s letter included a copy of an advisory from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued last month. It cautioned that paying ransom could violate federal law if the payees were on a federal list of sanctioned cyber criminals.



A United States Postal worker makes a delivery with gloves and a mask in Warren, Mich., Thursday, April 2, 2020. The U.S. Postal Service is keeping post offices open but ensuring customers stay at least 6 feet (2 meters) apart. The agency said it is following guidance from public health experts, although there is no indication that the new coronavirus COVID-19 is being spread through the mail. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

300+ Maryland USPS employees test positive for COVID-19
by Mallory Sofastaii
Published December 1 in WMAR Channel 2

Excerpt: In August, COVID-19 cases among Maryland postal employees exceeded 100. Two months later, there are now more than 300 cases.

Postal workers are asking the public to remain patient while they do their best to deliver mail with less people.

“Anxiety out the roof. I think it’s not just me. I hear a lot of talk in our office about anxiety,” said a Baltimore postal worker who asked to remain anonymous over concerns he could lose his job for speaking out. However, he wants customers to know what’s happening at local post offices.

“Right now, we’re the shortest staffed I’ve ever seen the office in the years that I’ve been here,” he said.



Rosem Morton for The New York Times

Plastic Dividers and Masks All Day: What Teaching in a Pandemic Looks Like
by Erica L. Green
Published November 30 in The New York Times

Excerpt: Zia Hellman prepared to welcome her kindergarten students back to Walter P. Carter Elementary/Middle School this month the way any teacher would on the first day of school: She fussed over her classroom.

Ms. Hellman, 26, dodged around the trapezoidal desks, spaced six feet apart and taped off in blue boxes. She fretted about the blandness of the walls, fumbled with the plastic dividers covering name tags and arranged the individual yoga mats that replaced colorful carpets. Every window was open for extra ventilation, chilling the air.

“I wonder how they’re going to react to all of this,” she said, hands on her hips, scanning the room for the last time. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to feel, but it feels right.”



Ed Mullin and Adam Bouhmad light up Project Waves for Southwest Baltimore. (photo by Stephen Babcock)

Project Waves will provide internet to 250 Baltimore households in 2021
by Donte Kirby
Published December 2 in Baltimore

Excerpt: Giving Tuesday brought many appeals to bolster nonprofits and organizations that have a positive impact on the community.

For community ISP Project Waves, it was a chance to provide a look at their work during a year when the need to close the digital divide has come into stark relief amid the pandemic. Through Facebook Live on the Digital Harbor Foundation’s page, leaders provided updates on their work to connect households to the internet in a city where 96,000 households lack wireline access in the community, alongside a call to action to donate.

Over the next year, Project Waves is funded to connect 250 households to the Project Waves network in partnership with National Science Foundation, said Project Waves founder and director Adam Bouhmad. The project includes a study that follows what happens when residents gain internet access, and how it changes opportunities.



The latest episode of the podcast "Mark and the Millennials," which is hosted by state Del. Mark N. Fisher (R-Calvert). Screenshot.

The GOP vs. Larry Hogan
by Josh Kurtz
Published December 2 in Maryland Matters

Excerpt: It’s sometimes said in politics that if you go far enough left on the political spectrum or far enough right on the political spectrum, the two sides will meet.

That statement came to mind last week as certain members of the Republican caucus in the House of Delegates offered blistering criticisms of Republican Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. What was striking was that they often sounded like Democratic critiques of Hogan’s tenure.

Since the election, a lot of media attention understandably has been focused on Democratic infighting and finger-pointing at the national level, since the Democrats’ hopes of major gains in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House fell woefully and embarrassingly short. The progressives blame the moderates, and vice-versa.

It is possible, strange as sounds, that both sides may be right.



The aerial surveillance over Baltimore was conducted by an Ohio company, Persistent Surveillance Systems. A test program ended in October, but legal challenges continue. PHOTOGRAPH: PATRICK SMITH/GETTY IMAGES

As Cities Curb Surveillance, Baltimore Police Took to the Air
by Sidney Fussell
Published November 27 in Wired

Excerpt: In August 2016, a Bloomberg report revealed a secret aerial surveillance program in Baltimore led by the city’s police department. Over eight months, planes equipped with cameras collected over 300 hours of footage, used by the police to investigate alleged crimes. Hardly anyone outside police department leadership and the vendor, Persistent Surveillance Systems, knew.

Baltimore’s police commissioner at the time, Kevin Davis, defended both the planes and the secrecy. The city’s murder rate was spiking, the stretched police department was responding to thousands of calls per day, and footage from the planes was helping police find suspects.

The planes were grounded amid backlash from residents and civil liberties groups, who called for the immediate suspension of the program and details on what data the city had been collecting. Commissioner Davis was eventually fired after failing to curb the city’s homicide rate. His replacement, Darryl De Sousa, resigned in a tax evasion scandal. The next year, Mayor Catherine Pugh resigned in a separate financial scandal.



Shan Wallace


The photographer capturing the soul of Baltimore
by Shan Wallace
Published November 25 in Huck

Excerpt: The history of Baltimore was something I learned as I got older. In public school, they didn’t really teach us much about it. Over time, though, I started to explore the city as a photographer. So I was able to discover it for myself.

We have such a rich history. There is history embedded in the sidewalks, in the infrastructure, in the monuments built around the city. We have The Apollo, we have The Charles Theatre, we have The Avenue, we have The Afro – which is the oldest African-American family-owned newspaper. There’s Billie Holiday. Duke Ellington had his last show here, John Coltrane came here. There are a lot of photographers, too.



Header image: Paige Myers, 5, arriving at her first day of in-person kindergarten since the pandemic began.Credit...Rosem Morton for The New York Times

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