ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland has experienced thirteen straight days of 1000 or more new COVID-19 cases.
In response, Governor Larry Hogan announced sweeping new restrictions on Tuesday.
The Maryland Department of Health has issued an order restricting hospital visitation.
The only exceptions are for those receiving compassionate care, parents or guardians of minors, and support for special needs patients.
Hospitals have also been advised to avoid any elective procedure admissions that aren't urgent or life-saving.
Those hospitals that are already full or near capacity will now be able to transfer patients to other hospitals equipped to treat positive patients.
All Maryland nursing homes are also being ordered to reimpose visitation restrictions, except for instances of compassionate care.
Anyone visiting a nursing home must have proof of a negative COVID test result within 72 hours of their visit.
To help combat exposure in nursing homes, the state is doubling the number of Rapid Response Teams to supplement staffing needs.
Under the new Health Department order, all nursing home staff will be required to be tested twice-a-week, beginning Friday.
Meanwhile residents will undergo testing weekly.
Starting Friday at 5 pm, all bars, restaurants, and facilities where food and/or alcohol is served will be forced to close from 10pm to 6 am.
Howard County Executive Calvin Ball stated in response to Gov. Hogan that:
“I am alarmed by the state’s dramatic increase in COVID cases and rates of infections. As the recent spike in cases poses a threat to our hospital capacity, we look forward to continued dialogue with the state and Governor on addressing this critical issue.
In Howard County, we will continue to be data informed and people driven on our guidance and restrictions. We are concerned that our case counts are trending in the wrong direction. As I mentioned when announcing our new gathering restrictions yesterday, we will make decisions about further restrictions when our county data is informing us to do so.
I am confident that our residents and businesses are equally alarmed by the rapid growth of cases and are adhering to both the county and state’s restrictions, advisories, and guidance during this pivotal time to protect themselves, their families, their employees, and their customers from getting ill. This is an urgent time that we must unite, adhere, and assist one another to stop the spread.”
However, the news was not well received by the National Federation of Independent Business.
“This is a very sad day for Maryland small businesses. Today’s announcement by Governor Hogan will be a very tough pill to swallow for so many of the state’s job creators. After a summer when businesses had to claw their way back from spring shutdowns and restrictions, now they face renewed mandates which, for some, may put recovery out of reach," said NFIB’s Maryland State Director, Mike O’Halloran.
At the same time, retail stores, religious institutions, gyms, bowling alleys, bingo halls, skating rinks, theaters, and personal service businesses will be pushed back to operating at 50 percent capacity.
And once again, no fans will be permitted to attend any professional or collegiate sporting events.
The Governor urged citizens returning from out of state travel or those planning to see relatives to get tested.
In just the last 24 hours -- the state's recorded 2,149 cases.
The increase has put Maryland's current positivity rate at 6.85 percent, the eighth straight day in which its been over 5 percent.
Of of the state’s 24 jurisdictions, 20 have positivity rates above five percent.
On Tuesday, for the first time since June 7, Maryland surpassed 1,000 COVID19 hospitalizations, a 100 percent increase since November 1.
Of those patients, 255 are currently in the ICU, the highest rate since June 19.