BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The Baltimore Police Department plans to increase business checks to make sure stores are complying with Gov. Larry Hogan’s order that all non-essential businesses close their doors at 5 p.m. Monday to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison made the announcement at a news conference Monday afternoon.
“We are leveraging different units within the department to add additional capacity and personnel. The aim is to increase visibility and compliance with the governor’s executive orders,” Harrison said, adding the department has also “created a larger footprint” to make sure businesses comply with the voluntary order.
Among the businesses that are considered essential and are not subject to the order are:
- grocery stores
- farmer’s markets
- convenience stores
- alcoholic beverage stores/distributors
- pet supply stores
- vet hospitals
- restaurants and bars are required to close their dining rooms but can operate carry-out, delivery, drive-thrus
Earlier in the day, Hogan said law enforcement officials statewide will take “aggressive actions” to break up groups of 10 or more people.
The police commissioner echoed those comments.
“When we get calls of non-compliance where there are gatherings of 10 people or more, we are responding to that and dispersing those individuals and educating those business owners on what’s actually required,” he said.
Harrison also sought to dispel rumors about the Maryland National Guard’s presence in the community, stressing they’re only in town “to support meal distribution, provide aid and planning and transportation and logistical assistance as needed.”
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So far, Baltimore has reported 31 cases of COVID-19, including cases caused by community transmission, Dr. Letita Dzirasa, the city’s health commissioner, said.
She stressed the importance of social distancing in fighting coronavirus.
City leaders also reiterated their goals of protecting seniors and those most at risk for catching coronavirus as well as slowing the virus’s spread.
The Baltimore City Health Department’s response to COVID-19 remains focused on community mitigation as well as preparation for potential hospital surge,” Dzirasa said.
Dzirasa added not everyone requires COVID-19 testing, especially since there aren’t enough tests for everyone. People at the highest risk for contracting the virus will be given priority, while those who show no symptoms don’t need to be tested and those with mild symptoms but who are otherwise healthy should self-isolate but also don’t need to be tested.
The state health department also issued a directive for all providers to test patients without regard for the person’s ability to pay or what type of insurance they have, she said.
Other essential services like trash pickup and public safety will continue to operate.
Those workers remain at a higher risk of catching the virus due to the number of people they come into contact with.
Fire Chief Niles Ford said there was concern nine of his workers were exposed to coronavirus during emergency calls last week. Luckily, both patients tested negative and the firefighters were allowed to return to work.
That’s where personal protective equipment comes in.
“Our people are taught how to protect themselves by wearing the proper PPE and that’s what we’ve done here and we just had to have people evaluated and they were subsequently cleared,” Ford said.
City Council President Brandon Scott’s office has released a map showing coronavirus-related resources for the community; click here to view it.
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