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Maryland senators introduce emergency legislation to safeguard Marylanders from rising coronavirus cases

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Posted at 7:42 PM, Mar 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-09 20:28:16-04

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Two Maryland senators introduced emergency legislation on Monday aimed at safeguarding Marylanders from the rising number of coronavirus cases throughout the state.

The COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Protection Act of 2020, which Senator Clarence Lam co-sponsored with Senate President Bill Ferguson, will empower the Governor with additional legal authorities to respond to a declared catastrophic health emergency.

“As a public health physician, I recognized the likelihood of a potential pandemic early last week after multiple cases of community-acquired cases were reported throughout the country,” said Senator Lam, the only physician in the State Senate. “My staff and I started examining emergency legislation that we could enact to empower the Governor with the tools needed to protect the health and wellbeing of Marylanders, and so this bill was ready to go when the first cases were reported in Maryland late last week.”

Three initial cases of COVID-19 were first reported in Maryland on Thursday, with two additional cases announced on Sunday.

“The fast-moving nature of this public health crisis means that we need our elected leaders to be nimble,” said Senator Lam. “I am pleased that the presiding officers recognized the urgency of this bill and have prioritized it for consideration by the General Assembly.”

Additional provisions in the bill will enable the Governor to undertake steps to ensure all Marylanders have access to immunization when available, eliminate cost-sharing for those with health insurance, and safeguard access to care for those who are uninsured.

Public health experts suggest that basic hygiene practices are the best way for the general public to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Such practices include coughing and sneezing into one’s sleeve instead of hands, washing hands frequently, keeping hands away from one’s face, staying home if sick, and other social distancing measures.

Experts also recommend against the general public buying and using masks unless instructed by a healthcare provider.

As an emergency bill, the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Protection Act of 2020 will go into effect upon passage of both the House of Delegates and Senate by an affirmative three-fifths vote and approval of the Governor.

The provisions of the bill will end on April 30, 2021.