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Baltimore County Schools to Resume Virtual Classes Wednesday After Cyber Attack

After a recent ransomware attack on the school district’s IT system, Baltimore County Public Schools announced Monday evening that it will return to virtual instruction for all students on Wednesday.The school district prepared steps for students and teachers to perform “confidence checks” on some school-issued devices to make sure that they are not compromised. Students who need a new device or help can go to their nearest high school on Tuesday between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m.No information was given about what group was behind the ransomware attack, what they asked for or if sensitive private information was revealed.The...

Hogan Writes to Biden-Harris Transition Team, Laying Out State Priorities

Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) wrote a letter last week to the leaders of President-elect Joe Biden's transition team, laying out some of the state's priorities. The letter was publicly released on Monday.Hogan's letter is addressed to Ted Kaufman, the head of Biden's transition team, who succeeded him as a Delaware senator in 2009, after Biden was elected vice president. Cc'd on the letter are other Biden advisers: Susan Rice, who was national security adviser under President Obama; U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), who is about to become a top White House adviser; former South Bend, Ind., mayor...

Baltimore Co. Schools Cancel Classes for 2 Days Due to Ransomware Attack

Baltimore County public schools will be closed, and distance learning canceled, on Monday and Tuesday due to a recent ransomware attack on the school district’s IT system.The school system’s offices will be open and staff will receive information about the upcoming week, according to a message posted on the district’s Twitter feed.The attack was discovered on Wednesday and according to the county, investigators and school staff have been working through the Thanksgiving break trying to get the school’s system back on line.The attack came shortly after a state audit revealed the school system’s vulnerability.In spite of a long weekend...

Small Business Saturday: Merchants Counting on Consumer Support More Than Ever

Small businesses have been the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, making Small Business Saturday in 2020 more vital than ever.Independently owned boutiques, gift shops, mom-and-pop hardware stores, restaurants and the like are facing unprecedented challenges due to coronavirus-related restrictions and shutdowns.Temporary closures, capacity restrictions, decreased demand for products and services and delays due to supply-chain issues have led to unprecedented challenges for small business owners.But the "Shop Small" movement continues amid these hardships."This holiday season looks a little different, but we can still share joy," American Express, which established Small Business Saturday in 2010, said in a statement....

Senators Urge Federal Funding for State Distribution of COVID-19 Vaccine

More than a dozen U.S. Senate Democrats are urging congressional leaders to include “robust” funding in any coronavirus relief package for states to prepare for vaccine distribution.“Dedicated funding for COVID-19 vaccine distribution is especially critical now as jurisdictions are facing historic budget shortfalls amid the pandemic and funding for health departments had been inadequate even before the COVID-19 pandemic began,” according to Monday’s letter.The letter’s 17 signers include Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D).The senators argue that the money is needed to ensure a competent vaccine distribution, which is likely to start in late December. Public health experts have estimated...

Days Before Thanksgiving, Long Lines Reported at Some COVID Testing Sites

Many coronavirus testing sites in Maryland are extra busy as the virus spreads and Thanksgiving draws closer.“There are some long lines,” said Jon Weinstein, director of Maryland’s COVID-19 Testing Task Force. “A lot of folks who are not heeding advice to stay home for Thanksgiving and are planning to travel, or have been for the last few days, are getting tests.”Weinstein said everyone who needs a test should get a test. That includes people with symptoms, people who suspect they’ve been exposed to the virus, people at high risk of exposure such as health care and grocery store workers,...

Teachers Ask for Statewide Virtual Learning Until End of the Semester

As COVID-19 cases continue to spike across the state, teachers are calling on State Superintendent Karen B. Salmon to make all schools virtual until at least the end of the semester. This would allow parents and educators to plan better, as opposed to the uncertainty of bringing kids in and out of school buildings which is causing burnout among educators, the state's largest teachers union said.“Virtual learning, and real or potential switches back and forth from virtual to hybrid modes of learning, is spiking workloads to precipitous levels for too many educators,” Cheryl Bost, the president of Maryland State...

Biden Taps Hoyer Aide for Legislative Affairs Job

President-elect Joe Biden announced Monday that he has picked a top aide to House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) to be one of his deputy legislative directors.Biden is hiring Shuwanza Goff, who has served as floor director for the House of Representatives under Hoyer since January 2019. The first Black woman to hold the position, Goff determined which bills came to the House floor, set the legislative schedule, and helped craft the overall House Democratic agenda.In a statement, Hoyer said Goff "has been instrumental in turning House Democrats’ campaign promises into a successful legislative agenda," and added that...

State Allocates $19M to Local Governments to Prevent Evictions

Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) announced more than $19 million in eviction prevention funding for local governments on Monday as Marylanders struggle to keep up with rent amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The $19.3 million of federal money, part of the state’s Eviction Prevention Partnership program, is being divvied up between the following 17 Maryland jurisdictions: Allegany County – $39,000 Anne Arundel County – $1,200,000 Baltimore City – $2,000,000 Baltimore County – $3,000,000 Calvert County – $600,000 Carroll County – $529,592 Cecil County – $475,000 Charles County – $750,000 Dorchester County – $100,000 Garrett County – $350,000 Howard County – ...

McCray Elected Chair of Baltimore City Senate Delegation

Baltimore City's state senators elected Sen. Cory V. McCray (D) chairman of their delegation on Friday.McCray's election comes as one of his best friends, City Council President Brandon M. Scott (D), is set to be sworn in as mayor in two weeks. McCray was already going to be a key ally for Scott in Annapolis, and the new position will only enhance his ability to do so."I am honored to have the opportunity to lead our delegation over the next two years," McCray said in a statement. "In our districts -- and across Baltimore -- we are working together...

Md. Acquires Freezers to Store Pfizer Vaccine

The state of Maryland is preparing for the eventual distribution of COVID-19 vaccines by purchasing five industrial-sized freezers.During a meeting last week, the state Board of Public Works, which includes Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R), Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot (D) and Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp (D), heard from the state Health Department's director of Procurement, Dana L. Dembrow.Dembrow explained that the state is ready to accept delivery of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, thanks to the purchase of equipment that can handle the storage needs of the vaccine, which must be stored at a temperature of minus 70 degrees Celsius.“We...

Original Ledo Pizza in College Park Gets Reprieve

The original Ledo Restaurant is here to stay after a brief hiatus.The restaurant, a staple for generations of University of Maryland students, faculty members and staff, was set to close its doors in College Park for good on Sunday after 65 years of severing its square pizzas and Italian dishes. That announcement had been made just days earlier and with little warning.But in both a sign on the door and in a social media post Saturday, the Marcos family said the restaurant will return under new management in four to seven months.“A local group has purchased the business and...

Baltimore City Pauses In-Person Learning for a Week After Thanksgiving

Baltimore City Public Schools will pause all in-person learning and meal sites for a week after Thanksgiving as a safety precaution recommended by health officials.“The Thanksgiving holiday may include travel for family and social gatherings that pose transmission risks for students, families, and staff,” school officials said in a statement. “Caution is required, and this brief pause in in-person learning reflects the recommendations of health officials.”Currently, Baltimore City has 27 school buildings open for in-person learning for around 1,200 students with disabilities, early learners, English learners, homeless students, students in grades 6 and 9 and students who cannot consistently...

Maryland Matters on the Air

Maryland Matters Deputy Editor Danielle E. Gaines will participate in a reporters' roundtable on Maryland Public Television's "State Circle" program, Friday at 7 p.m.The segment is expected to include discussion of the state's delays in paying unemployment benefits, Republican Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan's attempts to cast himself as an heir to President Reagan, the governor's latest COVID-19 restrictions, and the challenges associated with staging the 2021 General Assembly session.In addition to the TV broadcast, "State Circle" can be livestreamed at https://www.mpt.org/anywhere/live-stream-mpt/ or seen later on https://video.mpt.tv/show/state-circle/.

Federal Grand Jury Indicts Frederick Man Accused of Threatening Biden, Harris

A Frederick man was indicted by a federal grand jury for threatening President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris during the 2020 campaign.The indictment was returned late Wednesday, according to federal prosecutors.James Dale Reed, 42, had been charged with making the threat against a major candidate for president or vice president in late October.According to federal prosecutors, Reed left a threatening letter on the doorstep of a neighbor who displayed Biden-Harris lawn signs in early October. The handwritten letter, with “WARNING” written in red ink at the top, threatened people who display Biden-Harris yard signs, as well...

Hogan Issues Updated Order on Early Inmate Release During Pandemic

Maryland Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) issued an executive order Wednesday allowing the early release of some prisoners as part of an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus.As many as 1,200 inmates may be eligible.The document is substantially similar to an order Hogan issued in April.The order will consider the age of the inmate and whether the inmate is near the end of the sentence.Inmates who may be eligible under the order include those scheduled to be released on mandatory supervision within 120 days of the order. Those who are eligible for home detention may be immediately...

Federal Judge Dismisses Case Challenging Maryland’s Pandemic-Related Restrictions

A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit filed by a state delegate, businesses and religious groups challenging the stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) as the COVID-19 pandemic raged this spring.U.S. District Court Judge Catherine C. Blake had already denied a preliminary injunction sought by the plaintiffs earlier this year.The group Reopen Maryland, in company with Del. Daniel L. Cox (R-Frederick) and a series of pastors, veterans, politicians, campgrounds and other entities, filed the lawsuit against Hogan in May alleging that executive orders limiting business activity and large gatherings infringed upon their constitutional rights.The state...

Report: Md. Is a Pretty Safe Place to be During Thanksgiving

If you're lamenting being stuck at home this coming Thanksgiving holiday, here's a small piece of solace: Maryland is one of the safest states to be in at Thanksgiving.According to a new survey by the financial website WalletHub, Maryland rates No. 10 on the safety list for Turkey Day.The website used a variety of metrics to compile its list: from COVID-19 statistics to mask requirements to number of multigenerational households to customer health checks at restaurants to the overall crime rate to drunk driving-related fatalities in the month of November.Maryland was the state with the safest record when it...

Coalition Gearing Up for Another Fight Against Flavored Tobacco

A coalition of faith leaders, public health advocates, unions and community groups in Maryland is preparing to crank up opposition to flavored tobacco products.A bill to ban flavored tobacco appeared likely to pass in this year's General Assembly session but ran out of time when the session was cut short due to COVID-19.Coalition leaders on Wednesday said they are gearing up for another campaign.Faith & Community Against Flavored Tobacco said it will push for legislation sponsored by Sen. Mary L. Washington (D-Baltimore City) and Del. Jazz Lewis (D-Prince George's) that would remove all flavored tobacco products from the market,...

Where You Can Get Free Masks in Maryland on Wednesday

The Maryland Department of Health and county leaders in Allegany, Dorchester and Montgomery counties will hand out free masks to residents on Wednesday, encouraging the use of face masks in public places.The Allegany County Health Department will use the new Allegany County Fairgrounds drive-thru COVID-19 testing site as a distribution point for masks from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.Staff from the Dorchester County Health Department plan to provide masks to attendees at a drive-thru COVID-19 testing clinic at their offices from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The Dorchester County Health Department plans to host another, similar event on Nov....