Despite rise in virus cases, elected leaders again ignore health experts’ advice to tighten restrictions

In a deadly pattern we’ve seen before, coronavirus infections are rising across the region but area elected officials are ignoring health experts’ advice to tighten restrictions on public gatherings and businesses to thwart the disease’s spread. It seems our leaders are willing to tolerate scores or even hundreds of additional covid deaths in the next few months, on the assumption that rising vaccination rates will prevent a major surge before they pay a political price.

What employers should know about new COVID-related leave rules

On March 11, 2021, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 provided that employers may once again voluntarily extend Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL) and Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA) provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) to employees and receive those tax credits. This time the extension runs through Sept. 30, 2021, and further modifies the benefits that employees may receive if employers decide to voluntarily extend the benefits effective April 1, 2021.

A compassionate response to mental health

Frederick County has taken a giant step forward to improve community policing and public safety by expanding the services of a team of counselors and other specialists to help those experiencing a mental health crisis. This should also make the job of police officers in this community simpler and safer. One of the most difficult assignments for police officers here and around the country is to respond to a 911 call for a mentally ill person having a crisis.

Obama’s herring: Removing dams on the Patapsco brings back a silvery little fish

Jim Thompson and William Harbold discovered silver in a place in the Patapsco River where it had not been seen in more than a century. The discovery occurred last Friday around 10 a.m. about 3 miles downstream of Ellicott City and just upstream of where the Bloede Dam used to be. As discoveries go, it was hardly sensational; it did not send shock waves through the stock exchange.

Read More: Baltimore Sun
Working together across the aisle for a better Maryland

Last summer, the citizens of Maryland learned from The Baltimore Sun’s reporting that the former executive director of the Maryland Environmental Service (MES) spent lavishly in his tenure and ultimately negotiated a significant payout when he left to become the governor’s chief of staff that summer. This at a “not-for-profit business unit of the state of Maryland,” according to the MES website. The spending raised many questions about the organization’s oversight and whether officials were abusing its resources for personal gain rather than in alignment with the organization’s public mission to “provide operational and technical services to protect and enhance the environment for the benefit of the people of Maryland.”

Read More: Baltimore Sun
Solomon Jones: George Floyd was somebody and his death can’t be in vain

As the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who is accused of killing George Floyd by mercilessly pressing his knee against Floyd’s neck, begins this week, I am convinced that Black people need healing as much as we need justice. There is a persistent heartache that comes with the knowledge that some of those who are sworn to protect Americans believe that doing so involves killing citizens who look like me. That pain is coupled with anger each time I see a still from the video of George Floyd’s death—a still in which Chauvin stares defiantly into a camera as Floyd dies beneath his knee.

Our Say: Maryland should make Juneteenth a state holiday celebrating freedom

Juneteenth is the celebration of Black American emancipation that started in Texas, marking the date in 1865 that enslaved people there were told they had been freed two years earlier. A group of Maryland lawmakers wants to make this a state holiday, giving state employees a paid day off and closing state offices, courts and other official functions. If it is approved, it is likely that local governments will follow and pressure will build for local schools still holding classes that late in the spring to join the shift.

Editorial: Ransomware attacks are crippling cities, schools and hospitals. Congress can help.

The coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on the economy, but members of at least one profession are making out better than ever: cybercriminals. The average ransom paid by hacked organizations nearly tripled last year over the previous year; the highest reported ransom paid, $10 million, also was double the previous year’s high. Worse, many of the victims are those most essential to keeping communities safe, healthy and in good working order: state and local governments, schools and hospitals. Ransomware attacks use malicious software to lock a target out of its files — until the target pays to regain access to its own computers.

Lane: Here’s some hope for supporters of criminal justice reform

How many more months in prison do federal courts give Black drug offenders as opposed to comparable White offenders? The correct answer, through fiscal 2018, is: zero. The racial disparity in federal drug-crime sentencing, adjusted for severity of the offense and offender characteristics such as criminal history, shrank from 47 months in 2009 to nothing in 2018, according to a new research paper by sociologist Michael Light of the University of Wisconsin. For federal crimes of all types, there is still a Black-White discrepancy, but it, too, has shrunk, from 34 months in 2009 to less than six months in 2018.

Brown, Nethercut & Torres: Maryland lawmakers not doing enough to help working families this General Assembly session

With little time remaining in the Maryland General Assembly session, it’s useful — and discouraging — to look back at the working families policy agenda that nearly 50 organizations, representing hundreds of thousands of Marylanders, proposed at the beginning of the pandemic to help essential workers and those most affected by the shutdown. At the time, we called for a special legislative session to address Marylanders’ urgent needs related to housing, worker protections, health care and much more. Nearly one year later, our elected leaders have made some progress, but too many of these needs remain unmet and too many Marylanders are still struggling.

Read More: Baltimore Sun