During a press conference on Wednesday, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced that the state will begin to lift restrictions put in place in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic on Friday evening.
“On March 5, I held a press conference informing Marylanders that we had confirmed the first three positive cases of coronavirus in Maryland,” the governor began. “In order to mobilize all available state resources, I immediately declared a state of emergency. Since then, we have taken a series of bold, aggressive actions to successfully flatten the curve and avoid the nightmare scenario projected by public health experts.”
After detailing the number of infected in the state as of Wednesday (34,812), the number of hospitalized (6,404), as well as the deceased (1,694), Hogan commended citizens for their efforts combating the virus:
But together, our actions and sacrifices prevented hundreds of thousands of Marylanders from being infected, and saved the lives of thousands of our friends, neighbors, and family members.
The governor also spoke about the “great hardship” the pandemic has caused, not only for those who were affected by the virus directly, but for “the front-line health care workers,” as well as those who have suffered from the indirect economic fallout.
“Unfortunately, the fight against this deadly disease is far from over,” Hogan said. “But because of the incredible courage you have shown and the extraordinary sacrifices you have made, Maryland and our nation can now at least begin to slowly recover.”
The governor then discussed the state’s “roadmap to recovery,” which will be implemented in stages.
Prior to the start of stage one, the plan required “expanded testing, increased hospital surge capacity, and supply of PPE, and a robust contact tracing operation,” according to Hogan.
With the “four building blocks in place, and a solid week of encouraging numbers, including a slight but significant decrease in hospitalizations, and a consistent plateauing of our ICU numbers,” Hogan stated, guidelines were revised last week to allow for greater flexibility in various sectors.
“Maryland has achieved the 14-day trend of plateauing and declining numbers,” the governor said, adding that COVID-19 hospitalizations are down, “the number of COVID ICU patients has plateaued for a significant period of time, and is trending down over the past 14 days.”
New fatalities are “also trending downward.”
As a result of these numbers, Governor Hogan announced that the first stage of the recovery program can begin.
- Retail stores will be allowed to open at “up to 50% capacity, and with strong social distancing, masking, and other safety precautions” in place. “Curbside pickup and delivery” is still “strongly” promoted, according to Hogan.
- Manufacturing will be allowed to come back online, with recommendations “encouraging multiple shifts to limit the number of people working at the same time,” as well as other standard COVID-related safety protocols.
- Barbershops and salons will be allowed to “reopen at up to 50% capacity” and “by appointment only,” following standard COVID-related safety protocols.
- Pet groomers and animal adoption centers, as well as several other businesses may reopen as well.
- Hogan added that places of worship “may begin to safely hold religious services,” but he encouraged outdoor services, and urged church leaders “to do everything possible to keep their congregants safe,” especially the elderly and infirm. “Inside services may be permitted at 50% capacity or less, with appropriate distancing, masking, and safety protocols strongly advised,” the governor stated.
Governor Hogan then encouraged businesses to print a copy of the “Maryland Strong Back to Business Pledge,” and place it in their windows in order to reassure customers that “they are adhering to best practices and strict safety guidelines…”
The governor stated that various jurisdictions will have some flexibility in reopening due to variances in COVID-19 case load.
Despite the promise of reopening, Hogan reiterated caution:
I want to be very clear, while lifting the stay-at-home order and gradually moving into stage one of our recovery is a positive step forward, it does not mean that we are safe, or that this crisis is over. “Low risk” does not mean “no risk.” All Marylanders, particularly those older and more vulnerable populations, are advised to continue staying home as much as possible.
Employers should continue to encourage telework for their employees whenever possible; individuals who can work from home should continue to do so.
People should continue wearing masks in indoor public areas, retail stores, and on public transportation. We know that in general, outside activity is safer than inside activity, and that at all times and everywhere, Marylanders should continue practicing physical distancing … and to continue avoiding close gatherings of ten people or more. Everyone should keep washing their hands often and frequently sanitizing high-touch areas.
The governor concluded by saying that if stage one goes well, stage two can then be implemented.
The full press conference can be watched below, and more details pertaining to the guidelines announced by Governor Hogan can be found here.
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