The News: Maryland Vax Rate, Walters Workers to Unionize, Nurses’ War on COVID

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This week’s Baltimore news includes: Hogan promises “way more” vaccinations, cicadas 2021: here they come, museums make news, and more reporting from Maryland Reporter, Baltimore Fishbowl, The Intercept, and other local and independent news sources.



Maryland Matters

Biden Wants 70% Vaccination by July 4th; Hogan Says Md. Will Be ‘Way Ahead’ of Goal
by Hannah Gaskill
Published May 4 in Maryland Matters

Excerpt: With demand for COVID-19 vaccines dropping in many states, the federal government is changing how those doses are allocated.

Under the new policy, doses that a state doesn’t request from its weekly, population-based allotment will be held in a general pool, and states with higher demand can request additional shots from that surplus.

President Joe Biden on Tuesday also announced multiple changes in the U.S. vaccine campaign that are aimed at increasing uptake, including more outreach to rural regions and a push to vaccinate adolescents if the Pfizer vaccine is approved for their use.

At a news conference held in Baltimore City, Maryland Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) said that the vaccine will be available to about 455,000 youths in this age group as soon as Pfizer receives approval.

See also:

Mirroring National Trend, Maryland’s “Trump Counties” Are Slower to Get Vaccinated
by Bruce DePuyt
Published May 3 in Maryland Matters



Image by Bruce Emmerling from Pixabay

Study: Maryland has the 10th slowest recovery from the pandemic
by Brian Renbaum
Published May 4 in Maryland Reporter

Excerpt: Maryland ranks near the bottom among states in terms of the pace of its recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, according to a recent study.

The WalletHub study was released on Tuesday. It said that Maryland is the state with the 10th slowest recovery from COVID-19. South Dakota has the fastest recovery of any state and Michigan has the slowest recovery of any state. Minnesota, West Virginia, Rhode Island, Washington, D.C., Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey are the other states/jurisdictions that have slower recoveries than Maryland.

WalletHub based its findings on three criteria: “COVID health,” “leisure and travel,” and “economy and labor market.” The criteria were assessed across 22 different metrics. Each metric was ranked on a scale of 0-100 points. WalletHub used data compiled by U.S. government agencies such as the Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Centers for Disease Control, and the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

So why is Maryland’s recovery from the pandemic lagging behind that of most other states?

“When I saw the report, my initial reaction was that states that had the least-restrictive overall policies toward the pandemic had the fastest economic recovery,” Frederick County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Rick Weldon told



Baltimore’s 2021 Tax Sale List, from which about 2,500 names have been removed.

Advocates welcome tax sale relief, but say it’s late and not enough
by Fern Shen
Published May 3 in Baltimore Brew

Excerpt: With thousands of Baltimore homeowners at risk of losing their homes at tax sale, advocates had been working diligently to help them right up to last Friday’s deadline at 5 p.m.

Mayor Brandon Scott had promised in his State of the City speech that he would “use every tool and resource available to make sure no one loses their home due to a tax sale in the midst of a pandemic,” but stopped short of acceding to demands that he delay the sale.

“We had no further details, no indications, so we had to advise our clients that the city was proceeding with the tax sale,” said Allison Harris, of the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland (PBRC).

Scott’s announcement today that he is taking about 2,500 owner-occupied properties off the list – coming on the first business day after the deadline had passed – was bittersweet news to Harris and others.

“This did nothing to alleviate the pressure on homeowners who were afraid they were going to lose everything. I mean, people were panicked,” Harris said. “On Friday, I was on the phone with clients who were turning to family members to ask for $20 or $30 to help them pay their bill.”



A view of row houses in Baltimore on Dec. 3, 2015. Photo: Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Startup Alternative to Rental Security Deposits Gets Legal Backing in Baltimore
by Rachel M. Cohen
Published May 5 in The Intercept

Excerpt: A new bill in Baltimore passed the City Council last month, promising to address the problem of high security deposits for renters while being met with objections from local housing and tenant groups. Mirroring similar statutes that have passed recently in two other cities, the bill requires Baltimore landlords to offer alternatives to the traditional security deposit. If tenants can’t or don’t want to pay a lump sum up front, landlords must offer one of two alternatives: either pay the regular deposit in three monthly installments or purchase so-called rental security insurance.

The bill doesn’t specifically name Rhino, a real estate startup that launched in 2017, but it’s widely understood that “security insurance” refers to a financial product that Rhino promotes. The product allows tenants to pay a small monthly nonrefundable fee in lieu of a large refundable security deposit. The average Baltimore deposit is $1,000, and a typical Rhino policy for that would be about $5 per month.

Local housing groups in Baltimore say they support the idea of offering three monthly installments as an alternative, but virtually all housing activists in the city have concerns about the Rhino insurance model. Lawmakers rejected an amendment introduced by Ryan Dorsey, one of just two council members to vote against the legislation, to take the Rhino option out of the bill.



Workers at the Walters Art Museum announced their plans to unionize as part of an effort called Walters Workers United. The group cited issues with health and safety of employees, transparency, pay equity, and “top-down decision-making” at the museum. Image courtesy of Walters Workers United.

Walters Art Museum workers hope to unionize, citing concerns with health, safety, and management decisions
by Marcus Dieterle
Published May 4 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: Workers at the Walters Art Museum have announced an effort to form a union, saying they want to improve the health and safety of employees, increase transparency and pay equity, and address what they call “top-down decision making” by museum management.

Walters Workers United said in a statement on Monday that they intend to join American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 67, becoming part of Cultural Workers United.

“We are forming our union to care for our most valuable assets — the people who work here and the communities we serve. In doing so, we will support each other and further the stated goal of the institution to be a transformative force in the Baltimore region and the larger museum field,” Walters Workers United wrote in their mission statement on their website.



Photo credit: Bruce Willen

The Baltimore Museum of Art unveils a new “brand identity”
by Ed Gunts
Published May 3 in Baltimore Fishbowl

Excerpt: The Baltimore Museum of Art today unveiled a new, constantly evolving brand identity, developed to articulate its commitment to inclusivity and emphasize how its identity comes from its community.

The museum’s new visual identity, created in collaboration with the agency Topos Graphics + Post Typography, consists of a series of “brand components” that are being implemented across all of its print and digital assets.

To realize its vision, the BMA has developed a digital system that allows members of the general public to contribute their own unique marks to the new logo, making it an ever-changing manifestation of its audiences and their engagement with the institution. It’s the first significant change to the BMA’s visual identity since 2005.



Illustration by Alicia Corman

The Pandemic Takes a Psychological Toll on Baltimore Healthcare Workers
by Rebecca Kirkman
Published May 3 in Baltimore Magazine

Excerpt: The face still haunts her. It was a busy day in the intensive care unit at Ascension Saint Agnes Medical Center, a community hospital in southwest Baltimore, and Muna Jeter stepped in to help her understaffed team of nurses transport a coronavirus sufferer. The patient looked scared and alone.

“I couldn’t get the patient’s face out of my head for days,” recalls Jeter, who generally oversees a team of 400 nurses as director of critical care and respiratory therapy at Saint Agnes. “I can’t imagine how they do this day in and day out.”

And then there are the faces of her co-workers: More than a year into the pandemic, Jeter can see the toll the experience has taken on her colleagues when they report for their shifts.

“I almost feel they’re like veterans,” Jeter says of the nurses on her team. “Some mornings when I look at their faces, it’s like they could be going to war.”



Alanah Nichole Davis

Cicada Class of 2004
by Alanah Davis
Published April 30 in Maryland Matters

Excerpt: In hindsight, perhaps picking up an insect with widely set apart and prominent eyes, short antennae, and membranous front wings from a superfamily was not the way to a man’s heart. Well, a boy… because the last time a cicada brood emerged I was in middle school and I had a crush, well, because puberty.

As if the process of physical changes through which my child body matured into an adult body capable of sexual reproduction wasn’t tricky enough, my pubescent years were sound-tracked by the loud “shskshsshkskshshslshsk” sound of large insects who could often be seen rubbing their butts together or mating on trees, the ground or your arm… Whatever felt most inviting to them, and not you.

Cicadas or brood-x are emerging again and from what I remember cicadas really had no sense of personal space and that’s not really ideal for 2021 or the CDC and their precautions for the spread of COVID-19.



Photo courtesy of the Baltimore Robotics Center

3 ways to contribute to the common good, for tech companies that don’t believe in the separation between work and state
by Donte Kirby
Published May 5 in Baltimore

Excerpt: What’s a growing company’s role in the community where it’s based?

It’s a question that has been approached many times over the last year. And it came up again in recent weeks after influential, Chicago-based software company Basecamp recently lost a third of its employees because of a memo banning political speech on the company’s shared workplace software and end “paternalistic” benefits and committees. This introduced a change in philosophy at the company, where work is work and whatever happens outside of work hours stays outside the office.

Amid the rebukes, one message was clear: Companies don’t exist in a vacuum. What happens outside the workplace affects the company. There’s value in recognizing that, from the CEO to the new hire, employees have the ability to impact communities around them.

Once you’re ready to step up, there are plenty of ways to get involved. To offer some real-world examples to learn from, we went to the archives and gathered a few approaches that companies in Baltimore are crafting to contribute to the greater good.



Katja Schulz / Flickr

Bowing To Our Cicada Overlords, Hogan Declares May And June ‘Magicicada Months’
by Jenny Gathright
Published April 30 in DCist

Excerpt: This year in Maryland, “May” will no longer be just “May,” and “June” will no longer be just “June.” The two months, according to an official proclamation from Gov. Larry Hogan, are henceforth called “Magicicada Months,” in honor of the cicada overlords soon to descend on the region.

It remains unclear whether Hogan issued Friday’s proclamation in genuine reverence of the insects — or whether it was a political move designed to appease cicada leadership ahead of the emergence of Brood X, the group of billions of periodical cicadas that are set to come out of the ground en masse any day now in the region.

Either way, the proclamation urges Marylanders to remember the bugs aren’t dangerous at all.

“Although noisy and clumsy, periodical cicadas are totally harmless to the populace and natural resources of Maryland,” reads the proclamation.



tewart Bainum’s bid for Tribune Publishing is contingent on finding an additional backer to take on the Chicago Tribune and fill a gap in financing.Credit...Taylor Glascock for The New York Times


Maryland hotel mogul continues his quest for Tribune Publishing as time runs out.
by Katie Robertson
Published April 30 in New York Times

Excerpt: With time running out, Stewart W. Bainum Jr. is making a renewed effort to buy Tribune Publishing, the newspaper chain that agreed in February to sell itself to its largest shareholder, the hedge fund Alden Global Capital.

Mr. Bainum, a Maryland hotel mogul, notified Tribune Publishing on Wednesday that he planned to have $300 million in financing that would go toward a revised offer valuing the company at roughly $680 million, according to three people with knowledge of the proposal. As part of the would-be arrangement, $200 million would come from his own fortune, the people said. The additional $100 million would come from new debt, the people said.

The proposal is not quite firm. Mr. Bainum hopes that his willingness to put in $200 million of his own money, along with the debt financing, will attract others to join his effort, the people said.



Clockwise from top left: Dr. Teresa Hanyok still uses the stethoscope of her husband, Dr. Herb Henderson. The family of Pilar Palacios Pe re-watch videos of her animated karaoke performances and hold tight to memorable voicemails. One of Danitza Simpson’s sons wears the ojo de venado pendant with the initials of his mother, who was deeply proud of her Panamanian culture. There are still bald spots from bases on the front lawn to remind his family of marathon at-home ball games inspired by long-time little league coach Kevin Crabtree Sr. Henderson, Pe, Simpson and Crabtree are among the more than 8,500 Marylanders who have died of COVID-19. Family photos.


What They Left Behind: Families Treasure Jewelry, Stethoscope, Voicemails and Worn-Out Lawn Spots Left by COVID Victims
by Brenda Wintrode
Published April 29 in Maryland Matters

Excerpt: More than 8,500 Marylanders have died of COVID-19 since March 2020, as the devastating novel coronavirus pandemic swept through the state and the world.

Behind every statistic, a family mourns for a loved one and copes with those losses alone, socially distanced and without healing mourning rituals.

A year into the pandemic, Maryland Matters interviewed four families about the tangible things that help them honor and remember the lives of their loved ones.

Header image: Artwork by Alanah Nichole Davis

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