Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Talbot council unanimously approved an emergency declaration Monday afternoon, closing government buildings to the public and suspending board and commission meetings, including county council meetings.
The declaration of emergency is in effect for 30 days, but may be extended as needed.
The Talbot County Council also ordered that the expiration dates of any licenses and permits issued by the county that would expire by April 30 or the termination of the governor’s state of emergency, whichever is later, would be extended to the later of May 31 or within 30 days after the governor’s state of emergency is lifted.
“This is an all-hands-on-deck situation,” Talbot Council President Corey Pack said. “These are very trying times — when you hear the numbers coming out of Italy (300 dead in one day). Let us not be naive to think it can’t happen to us.
“The shutdowns, the social distancing, the washing of the hands, … all those things add up,” he said. “There is hope in the midst of great despair, in the midst of great worry.”
Pack pointed county residents to two websites — talbotcovid19.org and talbotdes.org — for additional information about COVID-19.
“The governor has done a great job to make sure that the citizens are safe,” Vice President Chuck Callahan said. “You really have to look at this as a safety measure. You have to shove everything aside.
“We’re here to make it safe for everybody,” he said. Don’t panic, use common sense, wash your hands. Take 20-30 seconds, wash your hands, wash your thumbs and wash them good.”
He also reassured county residents and business owners that county officials are there to help.
“We’re here to work together. If you have a problem, we’ll work with you,” Callahan said.
Although county offices will be closed to the public, documents may be emailed or mailed and there will be drop boxes for people to leave their paperwork.
Councilman Frank Divilio said businesses with matters pending before a county department or agency should contact that department directly, rather than calling the county manager’s office.
Councilwoman Laura Price praised the county’s staff and said employees would be taking care of business.
“You should be very assured that (matters) are being taken care of as best we possibly can,” Price said.
The county’s emergency Monday afternoon meeting was held in the council’s usual meeting room, but the public also was able to listen in via teleconference. And Councilman Pete Lesher participated in the meeting via phone as well.
Similar technology will be used if the council or any of the county’s boards or commissions must meet on a critical matter.
There were a few glitches with the call Monday — some staffers were difficult if not impossible to hear — but officials said the county’s information technology staff will be working on improvements.
“We still have some bugs we’re trying to work out, it’s not a perfect system,” Pack said.
“These are unique times for the county to deal with, … (we’re) going to have some hiccups along the way,” Divilio added.
The county’s regular March 24 meeting is cancelled, as are two budget work sessions set for this week. Budget work sessions set for next week and the council’s April 14 meeting likely will be virtual, using live streaming or teleconference.
Easton closed public access to town buildings at 12 p.m. Monday, March 16, and closed public access to its Monday night town council meeting. Easton’s meetings are televised for live viewing on MCTV Channel 98 local access.
“Council, go home, wash your hands, be safe,” Pack closed the emergency meeting. “Hug your kids, make sure they wash their little hands as well. Be safe, check on your neighbors, take care of yourself.”