ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland's Superintendent has closed all Maryland Public Schools for the rest of the academic year, while Governor Larry Hogan has lifted some restrictions.
Dr. Karen Salmon made the announcement on schools Wednesday afternoon.
In the meantime online learning will continue, while the Department of Education begins the “Maryland Together: Recovery Plan for Education."
Although not included in stage one, Salmon says the department is exploring different possibilities of returning to school in stages two and three of Maryland's re-opening.
As for senior graduations, Salmon says decisions will be made by each local superintendent.
For now Hogan is keeping his stay-at-home order in effect, but with some minor revisions.
Effective at 7 a.m. Thursday, Maryland will allow citizens to golf and play tennis, and go boating, fishing, and camping. State parks will also be reopened, as will all state beaches and playgrounds.
Elective surgeries can also resume. The Maryland Health Department will immediately be issuing guidelines to local hospitals and health care providers, who will then operate at their own discretion.
“Our Coronavirus Recovery Team, including all the scientists and doctors, has agreed that there are some additional things that we can safely do right now, prior to the lifting of the stay at home order and the beginning of Stage One," said Hogan.
During those activities, Hogan urged citizens to wear masks and stressed the importance of social distancing and avoiding gatherings of 10 or more people.
The Governor said the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations are down from a week ago and the number under intensive care has plateaued for eight days.
Both numbers are of importance in whether or not Hogan decides to fully lift the stay-at-home order and begin stage one.
“If these trends continue into next week, we will be ready to lift the stay at home order and to begin stage one...That would mean the reopening of certain types of businesses and lower risk community, religious, and quality of life activities,” Hogan said.
Recently Hogan unveiled four building blocks that would be instrumental in the state's recovery; more personal protective equipment, increased testing, hospital capacity in case of a surge, and improving contact tracing.
Maryland currently has a stockpile of 4.5 million KN95 masks, 600,000 N95 masks, 150,000 medical gowns, 1.1 million face shields, and 3.5 million surgical gloves. The state has also launched the online Maryland Manufacturing Network Supplier Portal to connect suppliers with buyers.
Recently Maryland acquired 500,000 testing kits from South Korea along with thousands of others from FEMA.
Earlier this week universal testing began for all staff and residents at nursing homes, which have been severely impacted by the virus.
Last weekend, 2,300 people were tested at Perdue Stadium in Salisbury, amid an outbreak at two area poultry processing plants. Universal testing will be implemented there as well on a shift by shift basis. Several VEIP stations are also open for drive-thru testing by appointment.
The Governor said testing would be expanded so healthcare workers and first responders at local fire and EMS departments could be tested along with state employees at the Health Department, and Departments of Corrections and Juvenile Services.
On Tuesday, the first patients in the U.S. were given a test vaccine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine as part of a global vaccine development program.
Additionally, Gilead Sciences donated 1,600 doses of Remdesivir to the State of Maryland. It's the only drug proven in a clinical study to help with COVID-19. The doses will be given to Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties where there have been the highest number of cases.
Hogan says the state has exceeded its capacity goal of adding 6,000 hospital beds. Currently 8,100 surge beds, including 2,400 ICU beds are available statewide. Aside from the Baltimore Convention Center, and Hagerstown corrections facilities, Laurel Hospital is adding a new wing, while Adventist Health Center in Takoma Park is making rooms available.
Finally, the state entered into a contract with the National Opinion Research Center, which Hogan says will quadruple the state's contact tracing capability. More than 900 applicants are currently being considered to join the team.
As of Wednesday morning there are at least 28,163 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maryland, including 1,338 deaths and 99 probable. 115,849 people have tested negative.