Gov. Larry Hogan’s stay-at-home directive has caused quite the stir among some county residents.
That’s because some on Facebook debated the legality of the order and whether it was infringing on their civil liberties, after Del. Dan Cox (R-Frederick and Carroll) posted a portion of the state’s Constitution on his Facebook page earlier this week.
Cox said in an interview that his post was to remind people to review the state Constitution, and added he wasn’t arguing with Hogan’s directive to stay at home.
“I think what motivates reading the state Constitution is we’re stuck at home and it’s a great time to read the Constitution and see how it applies in this particular context,” he said.
Cox has sought guidance from Hogan’s Office of Legal Counsel multiple times this past week about how the stay-at-home directive, ordering gatherings of no more than 10 people and ensuring other measures are being enforced.
For instance, he asked if churches could still hold modified services amid the pandemic, especially with Holy Week and Easter approaching.
According to interpretive guidance from the Governor’s Office of Legal Counsel, churches, synagogues and other religious institutions can hold masses and proceedings in their parking lots, as long as congregants remain in their cars and no more than 10 people are in those vehicles.
In-person services are also allowed, as long the participants and staff/clergy remain six feet apart and there is a four-hour gap between services, according to the order.
“All of these things are just processes that we have to work through to make sure the law in followed,” Cox said, thanking the governor’s office for its responses whenever he reaches out for legal guidance.
County to start virtual meetingsDue to the pandemic, the Frederick County Council will start holding its meetings virtually, beginning next Tuesday.
Currently, there are only budget adjustments planned as major items on next week’s meeting. Council President M.C. Keegan-Ayer (D) said the agenda is light next week to test out the challenges of holding a meeting online.
Keegan-Ayer noted that while County Executive Jan Gardner held a virtual town hall earlier this week, there were fewer than 10 people in the first-floor hearing room. With the seven council members and council staff, not even including members of the public, that group is more than 10 people.
There’s also the possible challenge of having division directors address the council, along with future budget workshops. Typically, council members participate in all-day workshops with county leaders in late April. Keegan-Ayer said they’re looking at pushing those back a week to figure out logistics.
Public participation is important at regular council meetings, she said. But she and colleagues are still figuring out what that looks like: Facebook Live comments, calling in or other options.
“This is going to be interesting ... the public just has to understand we’re trying to meet all the restrictions the governor has set,” she said. “It doesn’t look great if everyone else is following the governor’s directive, and we’re just going about business as usual.”
The meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on April 7, and will be streamed on the county’s website, www.frederickcountymd.gov.