From the Capital Gazette, p 1, 26 June 2020
Co-founder of ReOpen Maryland says he has COVID-19, but won’t help contact tracing efforts
Photo caption: Tim Walters, chair of Reopen Maryland, speaks at the Reopen Howard County rally beginning at the Howard County courthouse and ending at the bottom of Main Street in Ellicott City. Walters has said he has tested positive for coronavirus. (Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun)
A co-founder of the ReOpen Maryland movement has said on social media that he tested positive for coronavirus this week but won’t work with public health officials trying to track the spread of the pandemic.
Tim Walters, a two-time Republican candidate for the General Assembly from Linthicum, said in a series of Facebook videos starting Tuesday that he has come down with COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.
“I was diagnosed yesterday at the ER with COVID-19 and here I am months after not wearing a mask at rallies, churches and so on and so it’s funny how capricious this thing is,” he said.
Walters helped organize ReOpen Maryland protests in Annapolis, on the Eastern Shore and elsewhere in Maryland to challenge state and local measures put in place by Gov. Larry Hogan to slow the spread of the virus.
The group describes itself as pursuing “peaceful, law-abiding advocacy for public health measures that respect Marylanders’ civil rights, economic well-being and educational access.”
In the first of what Walters described as a series of planned daily videos about his illness, he described himself as a 53-year-old man with diabetes who hasn’t maintained good health habits since he left the Navy.
He said he has had a dry cough since March, that in recent days has worsened and expanded to include a headache, fever and loss of focus in one eye.
Walters urged people who have come in contact with him in the past two weeks to pay attention to the symptoms he described but he said he would not provide any information to public health officials trying to trace the spread of the disease.
Anne Arundel County Health Office Nilesh Kalyanaraman has described contact tracing as the most effective tool public health officials have in slowing the spread of the virus.
By retracing the steps of people who are confirmed positive, contact tracing becomes key for containing the deadly coronavirus’ spread and lowering hospitalization rates. It’s a routine procedure that epidemiologists and infectious disease detectives have done for decades, but tracking coronavirus requires an unprecedented intensity compared with other infectious diseases.
The county did not see a spike in positive test results after protests Walters helped run in Annapolis this spring, in spite of state and local restrictions on the size of gatherings. Kalyanaraman said they were too small to have much of an impact on the spread of the virus.
Anne Arundel County was among the first counties in Maryland to establish a robust tracking system. The state of Maryland has also set up a contact tracing program.
Walters was having none of it.
“I will not share anybody’s information with the government. I will not do it,” he said.
In a second video posted Wednesday, Walters said he had been contacted by the state contact tracing team and decided to have his wife and members of his family tested.
Anne Arundel County added 29 coronavirus cases but no additional deaths Thursday, state health data shows, as the county continues to show a downward trend in cases. Maryland added 440 new coronavirus cases and 23 deaths.
Numbers released Thursday morning show the county now has 4,985 confirmed cases and 193 deaths. An additional nine people may have died from the disease, but a lab test was never performed.
Across Maryland, at least 603,597 tests have been conducted, an increase of more than 11,000 in the past 24 hours, bringing the statewide rate of positive cases to 5.05%. Anne Arundel’s rate of positive cases is 3.88%.
Statewide, 511 people are currently hospitalized, with 209 patients in the ICU and 302 patients in acute care.
Walters frequently posts videos on social media, often daily worship commentary based on his reading of the Bible.
Even though he said he would not work with state or county public health officials, he urged those who follow him to speak with their doctors if they have symptoms similar to his: a dry cough, severe headache and fever.
‘I just want to educate people,” Walters said. “Don’t live in fear, chances are that everyone is going to get this.”