A week after Gov. Larry Hogan (R) declared a state emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic on March 5, the National Guard was activated statewide. Del. Brian Crosby told The Enterprise this week the group has been making efforts to serve vulnerable communities to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in the state.
On March 23, Baltimore County requested Maryland National Guard support to provide humanitarian and emergency management assistance to the county government. Since then, guard members have assisted with food distribution operations in the area, including in Baltimore city.
Crosby (D-St. Mary’s), who has been a member of the Maryland National Guard for five years, said it has also provided aid in planning and support for the city’s hospital and medical teams. With help from the Maryland Emergency Management Agency, members of the Guard began setting up a field hospital at the Baltimore Convention Center with help from the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins, which will provide 250 beds to treat coronavirus patients and expand the state’s hospital capacity. An adjacent, city-owned Hilton Hotel is also slated to be used as part of the field hospital. The makeshift medical center is scheduled to open April 24.
In addition, Crosby mentioned the Maryland National Guard is helping to establish a pilot health-screening location outside FedEx Field in Prince George’s County, in conjunction with the county’s health department, where residents will have access to drive-thru, onsite testing. The site is accessible by registration only via health care providers.
Although there have been some rumors, according to Crosby and others, about martial law, it is not going to be enacted in the state, and so far St. Mary’s County has not requested National Guard presence locally.
The county “wasn’t hit too hard; there are 23 cases as of today,” Crosby said Monday evening. “Not hard enough” where the guard would need to step in.
Commissioner President Randy Guy (R) said this week St. Mary’s County commissioners “don’t anticipate” having to request National Guard assistance for the county yet, since the number of positive COVID-19 cases in St. Mary’s has not matched those of Prince George’s County. That county had more than 1,000 positive cases compared to St. Mary’s, which had 62 positive cases as of Tuesday morning, according to the state and local health departments.
Commissioner Todd Morgan (R) said he believes the county shouldn’t do anything without consent or recommendation from the county’s health officer, who commissioners have an emergency operations meeting with every morning.