To the surprise of many residents, the Chestertown Farmers’ Market reopened this Saturday at the East Coast Storage facility at High Street and Morgnec Road.

Ward 3 Councilman Ellsworth Tolliver said he knew the town was looking for other locations, possibly on private property, but he was unaware of any plans to reopen the market in his ward this past Saturday until he received an email from Mayor Chris Cerino the night before. 

“It all happened behind closed doors,” Ellsworth said in a brief phone interview. “I would like to have been part of the process and would like to have known about the plans from the market manager, and what [Kent County Health Officer] Bill Webb had to say about it.”

“It’s my understanding the market is under the authority of the council and the council would need to vote to reopen it after a public discussion,” he said.  “I wasn’t asked about this, apparently a lot of planning went into it without my knowledge.”

Tolliver was the lone “no” on April 6 to reopen the market at Wilmer Park. The plan was going to move forward until April 8 when Cerino announced in a Facebook address that the health department wanted the vendors to be 30-40 yards apart. The market continued to remain closed 

“If that’s how far we need to space the vendors, it is very unlikely that we’re are going to open the market in an open air format at least until the curve of [COVID-19] cases Maryland and Kent County is on the downward slope,” he said in his April 8 address to the town.

A vendor said on Saturday that the market manager wanted to keep a low profile and chose not to announce the reopening of the market until after a trial run. 

“She wanted to make sure the market wouldn’t be overwhelmed this first time out,” the vendor said.

There was no announcement on the Farmers’ Market website about the reopening but their Facebook page had an entry on Friday evening announcing that the market would reopen at East Coast Storage the following morning.

Tolliver said the “market manager and the health department, may very well have found a way to open the market with the proper safety measures in place, but the council should have included the public in the discussion.”

The opening of the market comes as COVID-19 infections are on the rise in the state and in Kent County.

In response to the Kent Pilot Cerino said he would address the reopening of the market in a FaceBook address today at 5 p.m.

But he noted that the plan was approved by the Kent County Health Department.

“The market manager did not want a promotion for the soft opening on Saturday so the vendors could get a feel for the new site and iron out any kinks in the schematics with a lower volume of attendees,” he said.

Pressure to reopen the state’s economy

Gov. Larry Hogan insisted last week that the state needs to see 14 days of straight declines in deaths and hospitalizations before reopening the state would be considered. In the last three days new COVID-19 cases have hovered around 1,000.

But there is increasing pressure on Hogan to reopen the state’s economy. On Saturday religious organizations, state GOP lawmakers, an amusement park owner and REOPEN Maryland, LLC filed a lawsuit claiming violations of religious freedoms and freedom of assembly.

Protesters in Salisbury heard Congressman Andy Harris equate Hogan’s management of the crisis to “Communist China.”

“I didn’t wake up in Communist China and I didn’t wake up in North Korea,” Harris said to a small band of protesters. “Tomorrow morning I should be able to go to the church of my choice and worship the way I choose.” 

Hogan responded on CNN’s State of the Union that Harris “has the right to say whatever crazy things he has to say.” 

“I think everybody has a right to protest,” Hogan said. “Sadly, we had far more people die yesterday in Maryland than we had protesters.”