COVID-19 has ravaged the Charles County community, but this has not nixed efforts by local leaders to attempt circumvention of viruses-imposed impediments.
CARES Act funding, rental assistance initiatives, supplying personal protective equipment and opening testing sites are all aiding in mitigation of spreading the virus, allowing some individuals and businesses to proceed with day-to-day operations.
The county commissioners meeting held virtually on Sept. 15 commenced with a briefing from Michelle Lilly, director of the emergency services department, and a presentation provided by the county’s department of emergency services and the Charles health department.
Lilly explained from the timespan of Aug. 31 to Sept. 7, there was an uptick — from 4.05% to 4.59% — on the percentage of COVID-positives cases.
“Charles County positivity rate as of Friday, Sept. 11, was 4.59%,” Lilly said, adding the county has been between 4% and 6% since early June, slightly higher than the state’s positivity rate.
There have been 2,628 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 94 related deaths in Charles County as of Wednesday morning, according to the state health department.
Lilly added that the University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center has seen a decrease, since early August, in COVID-positive patients per week, mentioning numbers have begun to plateau.
“We continue on a downward slope of positive cases since early August with 97 total for the previous week,” she said. “We have been averaging one death per week since mid June.” No COVID-19 deaths in the county were on record from the week of Aug. 31 to Sept. 7.
Dr. Dianna Abney, Charles County health officer, noted that VEIP site testing is set to conclude at the end of this month, but drive-thru testing will commence at Regency Furniture Stadium the following week.
She followed with informing meeting attendees that public messaging, including radio station and newspaper ads, help ensure citizens are informed of proper health and safety protocols.
“We have a large ad in the newspaper... we’re discussing safe distancing and good hand washing,” Abney said.
The CARES Act Funding budget for Charles County was briefed to meeting attendees. The budget of approximately $28.4 million is split between the health department and the county for coronavirus-related expenses.
A briefing on the Charles County Department of Health CARES Act Funding budget summary as of Aug. 31 was provided. Over $3.7 million of the total has been allocated to date, with a remaining budget of over $10.5 million.
The majority of the dispersed funds — over $1.4 million — have been allotted for personal protective equipment to businesses, nursing facilities and the community.
Grants to nonprofits and faith-based organizations have been allotted the second largest amount of funds, over $850,000 to date. Reimbursement to the Charles County Emergency Services department ranks third with over $790,000.
An update on the Charles government CARES Act Funding as of Sept. 15, was briefed by Jenifer Ellin, director of the department of fiscal and administrative services, and Jacob Dyre, chief of budget for the county.
The largest two expense categories — of the approximately $14.2 million — include over $2.6 million to improve teleworking capabilities and $2.5 million to reimburse small businesses that were forced to close.
A presentation from the Charles department of economic development noted 237 applications were received for the Small Business Relief Grant; 185 have been approved with 41 applications pending. Over $770,000 has been dispersed as of Sept. 11.
Additionally, the county’s state of emergency officially expired in the county on Sept. 11 at 4:59 p.m. The commissioners did not vote this week to extend that declaration.