The Chestertown Farmers’ Market is of great importance to Kent Countians.

In recent weeks the Kent Pilot has encountered many who’ve mused what the loss means to them since the town temporarily shut it down on March 16 to combat the spread of the deadly Coronavirus.

The reopening of the Farmers’ Market was scheduled for this Saturday after the Town Council voted 4-1 on Monday to re-open it at Wilmer Park. To many customers and vendors, the news was a relief and spoke of an effort to return to normal as best possible.

But these aren’t normal times, and the market should not reopen at the risk of accelerating the spread of COVID-19 right at the most deadly point in the transmission cycle. Infections are peaking, as health officials have warned, and neighboring Queen Anne’s County was just declared a “hotspot” by Gov. Larry Hogan.

So we applaud Chestertown Mayor Chris Cerino in his decision on Wednesday to keep the market closed “until the caseload in Maryland is on the downslope of the curve.”

Monday’s vote to reopen came after lengthy discussion. The Council’s vote included a comprehensive plan to implement COVID-19 safety measures with a market design presented by Ward 3 Councilman Tom Herz. His plan was well thought out to maintain social distancing and ensure proper sanitation, but the timing was not. 

The Kent Pilot launched as COVID-19 was emerging here in Kent County. From the start, we chose to let science and the scientists be the voice of the people, and we have periodically called on Dr. Wendy Cronin, a local infectious disease specialist, for her 40 years of experience fighting infectious diseases abroad and here at home. On the question of reopening the Farmers’ Market, her message is a resounding “not yet.”

We adamantly side with Dr. Wendy Cronin and thank her for driving home the importance of mitigating risk in a community that is aging and more vulnerable to infection.

This now becomes an opportunity for Farmers’ Market Manager Julie King to team up with the vendors and customers to create an online marketplace.

The Chestertown Farmers’ Market has a brand and local residents want access to healthy fresh food.   The technology to create an online market is now accessible. Local carryout establishments have kept their businesses afloat with online ordering and delivery. The Farmers’ Market team can use this model to spread the word and sell goods online.

We have heard the argument that the grocery stores remain open and that the risks are ever-present there, but here Town leaders had the opportunity to close at least one venue where the risk of spreading the disease is apparent.

Right now Kent has one of the lowest transmission rates in the state and Cerino has been astute to try and keep it that way.

Cerino is bound to have detractors no matter his decision, but we should be kind to him knowing that he put the health and safety of the community above all else.