Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison denied rumors that an officer tested positive for coronavirus, saying there are no confirmed cases in the department.
“However, given the nature of this virus, it’s possible this could change,” he said.
The department is monitoring employees who are exhibiting symptoms of the virus and anyone who has recently called out of work sick, he said at a press conference outside City Hall on Wednesday.
Two hundred fifty kits with masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and disinfectants have already been distributed to the department’s nine districts, with priority going to officers who interact with the public, Harrison said.
Additionally, the Baltimore Fire Department has provided the BPD with 3,000 N95 protective masks, and another 2,000 are being donated by big-box hardware store Home Depot.
Police officials are keeping a daily inventory of emergency supplies and trying to order more, the commissioner said. But obviously, many of the items are in high demand all over the world.
During Wednesday’s press conference, local officials also provided an update on the city’s effort to distribute food to people during the coronavirus pandemic.
Holly Freishtat, the city’s food policy director, said 53,000 free meals have been distributed at 92 sites since officials launched the city’s response to slow the spread of the disease.
Of those, 43,000 meals were provided to children, youth and families at 75 sites, according to Tisha Edwards, head of the Mayor’s Office of Children and Family Success.
Edwards said the Housing Authority of Baltimore City is starting to deliver meals to eight public housing complexes each afternoon. In addition to the city’s 75 rec and aquatic centers, meals are being served at 10 sites operated by nonprofit organizations and community associations, Edwards said.
Heang Tan, who oversees the Division of Aging and Care Services within the Baltimore City Health Department, said the city is distributing meals at senior centers and senior apartment complexes run by the HABC.
The city has partnered with Meals on Wheels, Maryland Food Bank, Salvation Army and the Red Cross to bring meals to seniors age 85 and older who can’t leave their residence and don’t have someone to bring them food.
Earlier this year, state and local officials raised concerns about a new U.S. Department of Agriculture rule that would have potentially cut Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for 15,000 residents.
But Freishtat said the change, which would have taken effect April 1 and made it harder for the city to provide assistance in economically distressed areas, was waived as part of the federal government’s response to the pandemic.
The city can also provide additional funds to participants and has more flexibility sign more residents up for SNAP benefits, she said.
Baltimoreans with can questions related to food access can call 311.
Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young once again urged residents to stay at home to limit the spread of the virus. As of this morning, the city has 53 confirmed cases.
Baltimoreans are encouraged to wash their hands frequently with warm water and soap, use an alcohol-based sanitizer, and cough and sneeze into their elbow.
If you must make an essential trip outside, maintain six feet of separation with other people in public.
The mayor also encouraged residents to fill out the Census ahead of Census Day on April 1, saying the COVID-19 pandemic illustrates one of the many reasons citizens need to be counted.
“The Census directly affects federal funding for things like this public health emergency we find ourselves in now,” Young said. “Federal dollars for feeding children and older adults are essential to providing food relief during this crisis.”
The form can be filled out online, through the mail or over the phone, and the nine questions only take a short time, he said.