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Hogan unveils new limits to fight war 'the virus is winning'
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Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced limits to operating hours and capacity for businesses on Tuesday amid a surge in coronavirus cases, saying “we’re in a war right now, and the virus is winning.”

New limits will go into effect Friday at 5 p.m., including a 10 p.m. closing time for bars and restaurants. Also, retail businesses will be limited to 50% capacity, as well as religious institutions, personal services, fitness centers and social clubs.

The Republican governor made the announcement as Maryland reported 2,149 new cases Tuesday morning, and the state entered its second week of recording at least 1,000 cases each day.

“This virus has been with us for so long that too many of us have become numb to the staggering spike in numbers that are being announced every day,” Hogan said.

Hogan also vehemently rejected “all the disinformation that’s being spread all over social media” that seeks to downplay the seriousness of the virus.

“This is not the flu,” Hogan said. “It’s not fake news. It’s not going to magically disappear, just because we’re all tired of it and we want our normal lives back. We are in a war right now, and the virus is winning. Now more than ever, I’m pleading with the people of our state to stand together awhile longer to help us battle this surging virus.”

Hogan said he spoke with Vice President Mike Pence on Monday, and the governor was scheduled to speak with Democratic President-elect Joe Biden on Thursday. A meeting with the National Governors Association also was scheduled for later Tuesday.

“I’m very concerned that we’re in the middle of this battle with people dying and hospitals overflowing in every state in the country, and we have to make sure that there’s a smooth handoff,” Hogan said. “I’m hopeful that we will, and I think it’s getting better, but we have a brand new team that has not been involved that doesn’t really know much about what’s currently happening, and that’s a problem.”

The governor also announced no fans will be allowed at racetracks or professional and collegiate stadiums across the state.

In addition, state health officials have issued an emergency order to prohibit all hospital visitation until further notice with some exceptions, including end-of-life care, obstetrics, parents or guardians of minors, and support for people with disabilities.

The state issued an emergency order allowing hospitals that are either full or nearing capacity limits to transfer patients to hospitals that are equipped to provide them with the care they need. The step is being taken to try to ease overcrowded hospitals in some areas of the state, putting patients in hospitals where beds are available.

Maryland reported Tuesday that hospitalizations due to the virus are up to 1,046. That’s an increase of 61 from the previous day.

The state also reported 26 deaths in a 24-hour period. Maryland has reported a total of at least 4,186 deaths from the coronavirus.

State health officials issued guidance warning hospitals and other medical facilities to avoid any elective procedure admissions that are not urgent or life-saving.

The governor also announced new limits on nursing home visitation. Until further notice, indoor visitation at Maryland nursing homes will generally be limited to compassionate care, and all visitors must have proof of a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours before their visit. Nursing homes will have mandatory twice-weekly testing for all staff, as well as mandatory weekly testing for all nursing home residents, effective no later than Nov. 20.


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Maryland Senate president releases plan for next session

Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore city) on Friday, Nov. 6, released an operational plan for how the Senate will conduct the next session during the ongoing pandemic, including how health checks, voting procedures and public testimony will be conducted.

Ferguson told reporters that he and House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County), met with Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on Thursday and have been working closely with him, as well as with local officials, advocacy groups and other stakeholders, on the physical and operational changes needed to ensure legislative business could safely continue.

“This has been a bigger task than I imagined,” Ferguson said, stating it seemed as though those involved were “rebuilding the legislative process from scratch.”

Ferguson unveiled to reporters the Senate’s 2021 Session Operations Plan, which explains COVID-19 precautions legislators will undertake as well as physical changes to the State House that are planned to be in place by Jan. 13.

Senate precautions include daily access to the State House being limited to Senators and two approved staffers per office and members of the press. Guests would only be permitted, under escort, if virus activity is low.

The plan also lays out three stages of operations depending on virus activity. Stage one conditions indicate high potential for transmission and “pandemic conditions,” stage two indicates lower disease activity with those exposed being quarantined, and stage three indicates no activity or isolated incidents.

“In stage three in the Senate, members will be voting and debating from the Senate floor,” he explained, though the number of people on the floor will be restricted.

In stage two, members would be separated and participating virtually, while in stage one work would be paused until a determination is made when legislators could return.

When asked what the thresholds were to move from one stage to another, Ferguson responded that after consulting with health experts he wanted the plan to stay “dynamic.”

“It is about the level of spread,” he said, more so than the number of infected. “A small number [of infected] could still impact the ability to operate.”

Legislators in regular contact with others would require daily testing while those not in regular contact could have weekly testing. However, on-demand testing would be available in Annapolis at any time for those who felt symptomatic.

“The perception of safety is important as well,” he said, pointing out anxieties that were raised over allergies during the previous shortened session.

A daily health check app, a relaxed sick leave policy, social distancing and face covering requirements are among the other measures mentioned in the plan for attempting to limit the spread of the disease during the next session.

Plexiglass dividers will also be installed at Senators’ desks in the chamber and tablets will be in their offices for votes as well.

Ferguson also responded to concerns about plans for limited public interaction during virtual committee meetings. He mentioned a process for submitting electronic testimony but stated he had to “balance values of reducing risk with the need for input and information.”

When asked if some of these changes could become permanent, Ferguson was doubtful, stating: “When we are doing the people’s business, we should be in Annapolis as the constitution says.”


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Climate change expected to make Chesapeake Bay cleanup 10% harder

It’s long been known that climate change would make the job of cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay more difficult.

To be precise, it will be about 10% more difficult between now and 2025 than previously thought, at least according to new computer modeling. And the region’s changing climate will continue to make things harder after that.

The findings were presented at several recent meetings of the Chesapeake Bay Program, the state-federal partnership leading the Bay restoration effort, which is expected to approve the figures by the end of the year.

After that, states will have to start figuring out how to reduce the additional climate-driven nitrogen pollution — coming in at about 5 million pounds per year — on top of the reductions they are already struggling to achieve.

That’s because climate change was not factored into the latest Bay cleanup goals, established in 2010. At the time, there was not enough information to quantify its impact.

Since then, more research and analysis has shown that climate change has actually been impacting the Bay for decades, primarily because of a gradually increasing trend in rainfall that drives more nutrient pollution off the land and into streams and, ultimately, the Bay.

Those nutrients, nitrogen and phosphorus, cause algae blooms that cloud the water, blocking sunlight from underwater grass beds that are important habitat for fish, crabs and waterfowl.

When the algae sink to the bottom and die, they decompose in a process that draws oxygen out of the water, leading to summertime dead zones in deep areas of the Bay.

Nutrients largely originate from wastewater treatment plants, stormwater systems and manure and fertilizer applied to farmland. Reducing the flow of nutrients to the Bay by upgrading wastewater treatment plants or installing streamside buffers or cover crops that soak up excess nutrients has been the cornerstone of cleanup efforts for decades.

But the changing climate complicates the picture. The computer models used by the Bay Program to set the 2010 nutrient reduction goals relied on weather data from the mid-1990s to represent a “normal” range of weather conditions.

It turns out that much has changed since then. The Bay region is getting wetter on average, and more rain drives more nutrients from farms and lawns into the water. The Bay is changing as well. Warmer water temperatures can spur more algae growth, which reduces oxygen in the water and triggers the summertime dead zone.

Those changes, in effect, have been gradually offsetting the impact of nutrient reduction efforts since about 1995, but that change was not previously accounted for in models. When that is factored in, the new modeling shows that, by 2025, the Bay region will need to reduce more nitrogen than expected — 5 million pounds a year — to attain the same water quality goals.

Put another way, the Bay region previously needed to reduce the amount of nitrogen entering the Bay in an average year from about 251 million pounds now to 201 million pounds a year by 2025.

But when climate is added to the equation, instead of reducing nitrogen loads to the Bay by 50 million pounds a year, states now have to reduce it by 55 million pounds a year — a 10% increase.

Nitrogen is the nutrient that has been the most difficult to control — and the most problematic for the Bay. The region was not on pace to meet its nitrogen goals even without the added burden of climate change.

The good news is that, after making new data and model changes recommended by scientists, the newest estimate for annual climate-related pollution reductions is less than the 9 million pounds originally estimated in 2017.

But the new modeling raises a number of red flags about the future. The rate of climate change impacts on the Bay is accelerating. In the 10 years from 2025 and 2035, states will have to offset another 5 million pounds of nitrogen a year to keep pace with changing conditions.

“That means we will have as much of an impact from climate change in the next 10 years as we had in the past 30,” said James Martin, bay coordinator for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and cochair of the Bay Program’s Water Quality Goal Implementation Team. “That’s scary.”

State cleanup plans are supposed to be updated by the end of 2021 to show how they will offset the additional 5 million pounds of nitrogen to meet the 2025 goal. They are also supposed to develop a general explanation of how they will achieve the additional reductions needed by 2035.

But additional work may be needed to address two other potential climate impacts that could affect that equation:

• Preliminary modeling shows that climate change may have a greater impact on shallow areas and surface waters than previously realized. Historically, the Bay’s nutrient reduction goals have largely been aimed at eliminating the deep-water dead zone. But as water warms on the surface, it will hold less oxygen, so surface waters may not meet water quality goals either. Scientists want to further revise the models to better assess that impact, but it could mean even more nutrient reductions are needed in the future.

• Climate change may reduce the effectiveness of on-the-ground actions to reduce nutrient runoff. For example, increased rainfall associated with climate change may overwhelm stormwater control ponds or vegetated streamside buffers, reducing their effectiveness. Those impacts are not accounted for in cleanup plans.

Those things have not been calculated yet, said Martin of Virginia’s DEQ.

“I think it’s reasonable to say, once we do account for that, it’s going to make things harder,” he said.

Beth McGee, director of science and agricultural policy at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said she was pleased the Bay Program is requiring detailed plans from states for dealing with climate impacts anticipated by 2025. But she said she wished it would ask for more than a general description about what they would do by 2035.

“If we had our preference, we would have had numbers, not just sort of a qualitative narrative about 2035,” McGee said. “That said, we’re happy that they’ve at least taken on 2025.”


Local
Rosecroft hosts $100,000 Potomac Pace

On a mild evening when intermittent showers made only a brief appearance, Rosecroft Raceway hosted the fifth edition of the $100,000 Potomac Pace Invitational last Sunday and many of the sport’s top older horses and drivers were on hand for the track’s signature event.

Each of the previous four editions of the Potomac Pace had also attracted quality fields and drivers and produced sub-1:50 winners and last Sunday’s renewal may have been the deepest and most contentious yet in both equine and human categories. Not only did this year’s Potomac attract the division leader, it landed three of the top four finishers in the Oct. 31, $500,000 Breeders Crown Open at Hoosier Park.

Bettor’s Wish (Dexter Dunn driving) was made the prohibitive 1-5 favorite from post five despite being the beaten choice in the Breeders Crown final two weeks earlier. The four-year-old Bettor’s Delight stallion trained by Chris Ryder was last year’s three-year-old pacing colt champion and the solid favorite to garner divisional honors.

Backstreet Shadow (Tim Tetrick) and This Is The Plan (Yannick Gingras) both represented the powerful Ron Burke stable and both drew alongside one another in posts one and two, respectively. This Is The Plan was the solid 4-1 second choice, while Backstreet Shadow garnered little respect and was the 10-1 fourth choice, one point higher than Harambe Deo.

When the gate folded for the outset of the $100,000 Potomac Pace, Stars Align A (Corey Callahan) left very alertly from the far outside and cleared This Is The Plan and Backstreet Shadow before the opener in a wicked 25.1. Bettor’s Wish got away fourth then angled out second over behind Backstreet Shadow as Stars Align A rolled by the half in 52.4.

Stars Align A continued to show the way down the backside amid mild pressure from Backstreet Shadow, with This Is The Plan tucked snugly in the pocket as Bettor’s Wish loomed up second over and Leonidas A (Austin Sielgelman) slipped out third over as the long shot leader rolled by three-quarters in an eye-opening 1:19.3.

Midway on the far turn, Stars Align A still had something left but Bettor’s Wish launched his bid three-wide and swept to command but he would soon had company from Leonidas A who loomed a danger while angling to the center of the track. In fact, Leonidas A was able to wear down the odds-on choice and edge past Bettor’s Wish in the final strides for a neck score in 1:48 flat.

A five-year-old Mach Three gelding trained by Sheena McElheny for owner Jesmeral Stable, Leonidas A notched his fourth win in his last five starts and now boasts 13 wins from 24 seasonal outings with over $150,000 banked. Leonidas A lowered his lifetime mark by three full seconds and just missed equalling the all-age track record of 1:47.3 set three years ago by Keystone Velocity in the second edition of the Potomac.

“When I heard that Bettor’s Wish was going to be in it, I thought this was going to be a tough step up for him,” McElheny said. “He had beaten the Open horses at Plain Ridge then beat the Open horses at Yonkers which is tough to do. But this was a really tough field, but he was coming into it so good.”

“I could not have mapped it out any better,” Siegelman said. “I steered him to the rail hoping to get a check. But he was moving really well. When I angled him off cover turning for home and showed him some race track I knew he was going by Bettor’s Wish. He’s the best horses that I’ve ever driven and that’s the biggest win for me.”

Bettor’s Wish was clearly second best in defeat and will head to the Meadowlands this Saturday for the $500,000 TVG Final, which will be the last start of his career. Bettor’s Wish will stand stud at Diamond Creek Farm in Pennsylvania beginning in 2021 after concluding his career with over $2.5 million banked, considerably more than his initial $20,000 yearling purchase price.

One race later in the overnight feature, Jack Quick (Jason Thompson) continued his good recent form when he forged a mild 7-1 upset in the $12,000 Open. A five-year-old Nuclear Breeze gelding owned, bred and trained by Basil Sapienza, Jack Quick notched his second straight victory and now owns a 13-11-5 slate and over $85,000 banked from 55 career tries.

Twitter: @TedSoMdNews


Local
Chesapeake Bay dead zone smaller than in recent years

Experts from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources report that the 2020 dead zone is the second smallest observed in the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay since monitoring began in 1985.

In their 2020 Chesapeake Bay Dead Zone Report Card, researchers from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science also reported that throughout the entire Bay this year’s dead zone was smaller than most recorded in the past 35 years (80%), according to a release from the Chesapeake Bay Program.

In June 2020, researchers from the Chesapeake Bay Program, the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, University of Michigan and U.S. Geological Survey forecasted that the Bay would see a slightly smaller than average dead zone this year, due to reduced spring rainfall and less nutrient-rich runoff flowing into the Bay from the watershed.

In the short-term, experts believe that several factors, including more average river flows and unseasonably cool temperatures in May and September contributed to the smaller dead zone. Over the long-term, the continued implementation of nutrient and sediment reduction strategies put in place by the six states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed (Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia) and the District of Columbia are continuing to help decrease pollution in the Bay and reduce the size of the dead zone.

Hypoxic and anoxic regions — areas with little to no oxygen, respectively — are caused by excess nutrient pollution entering the bay. One way in which nutrients can enter the bay is through its tributaries in the watershed that drain into it. Higher river flows bring increased amounts of nutrient pollution into the Bay. The previous two years have seen above-average river flows, with 2019 setting a record high.

“The amount of hypoxia is a key indicator of bay health. After two years of extremely high flows and greater than average hypoxia, it is encouraging to see improved oxygen conditions in our bottom waters providing suitable habitat for fish, crabs and oysters,” Bruce Michael, director of Resource Assessment Service, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, said in the release. “It is Maryland’s goal, along with our Chesapeake Bay Program partners, to reduce nutrients and sediments entering the Bay to levels that support good water quality for our iconic Bay species.”

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the current year (measured from Oct. 1, 2019, to Sept. 30, 2020) has been normal, with flows entering the Bay at an average of 77,665 cubic feet per second, which is slightly below the long-term average of 79,000 cubic feet per second.

“Improved dissolved oxygen water is critical for crabs, oysters and finfish in the Bay,” Scott Phillips, Chesapeake Bay coordinator for the U.S. Geological Survey and cochair of Scientific Technical Assessment and Reporting Workgroup of the Chesapeake Bay Program, said in the release. “The monitoring and associated interpretation by the Chesapeake Bay Program partnership are the foundation for assessing progress in restoring water-quality conditions Bay and its watershed.”

Only one out of the eight monitoring cruises showed larger-than-average hypoxic conditions. This occurred in late July as a result of below average winds and the hottest temperatures ever recorded in Maryland, causing hypoxia to increase considerably, resulting in a large dead zone. Strong winds from Hurricane Isaias in August helped to mix the waters of the Bay, reducing the dead zone; hypoxia returned in September but quickly dissipated due to cooler temperatures and windy conditions. This year’s dead zone started later and ended earlier than it has in the past several years. Additionally, no anoxic areas were noted in the mainstem of the Bay this year.

What’s going on

Throughout the year, researchers measure oxygen and nutrient levels as part of the Chesapeake Bay Monitoring Program, a Bay-wide cooperative effort involving watershed jurisdictions, several federal agencies, 10 academic institutions and over 30 scientists. Among these institutions, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and Virginia Department of Environmental Quality conduct 8 to 10 cruises between May and October, depending on weather conditions, to track summer hypoxia in the Bay.

Results from each monitoring cruise can be accessed through the Eyes on the Bay website for the Maryland portion of the Bay and the VECOS website for the Virginia portion. Estimates of river flow and nutrients entering the Bay can be accessed on the U.S. Geological Survey’s website. Scientists at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, in collaboration with Anchor QEA, produce daily real-time estimates of dead zone size, along with forecasts of hypoxia in the Bay.

The dead zone is an area of little to no oxygen that forms in deep Bay waters when excess nutrients, including both nitrogen and phosphorus, enter the water through polluted runoff and feed naturally-occurring algae. This drives the growth of algae blooms, which eventually die and decompose, removing oxygen from the surrounding waters faster than it can be replenished. This creates low-oxygen—or hypoxic—conditions at the bottom of the Bay. Plant and animal life are often unable to survive in this environment, which is why the area is sometimes referred to as a “dead zone.”

Pollution reducing practices used in backyards, cities and on farms can reduce the flow of nutrients into waterways. Management actions taken to decrease loads from point sources (e.g. wastewater treatment plants) may immediately show detectable pollution changes, but best management practices for non-point sources (which refers to pollution resulting from excess fertilizers, agricultural run-off, etc.) often show a time lag between implementation and their impact toward improving water quality and the health of the Bay.

Weather conditions also play a role in the size and duration of the annual dead zone. Heavy rainfall can lead to high river flows entering the Bay, which carries along increased amounts of nutrient pollution. Above average spring freshwater flows to the Bay, along with hot temperatures and weak winds provide the ideal conditions for the dead zone to grow larger and last longer, as occurred in 2019. Average spring freshwater flows to the Bay, combined with cooler temperatures in May and September, provided ideal conditions for the dead zone to remain smaller in 2020 than it has in past years.


The Joint Base Andrews community guide, published by DC Military of APG Media of Chesapeake, will be on stands later this month.