ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Governor Larry Hogan last Wednesday issued an executive order requiring all workers and customers to wear face coverings inside grocery stores, retail establishments, and aboard public transportation including Uber and Lyft. The order takes effect on Saturday at 7 a.m.
The order allows leaders in state jurisdictions to issue stricter measures if they choose to. Some areas such as Anne Arundel, Montgomery, Prince George's, and Charles County along with Baltimore City have already ordered residents to wear masks in all public spaces.
RELATED: Here's a lists of Maryland counties and other regions that are requiring residents to wear face masks
Then there was some good news, as Hogan declared "We are now able to begin bringing out the gradual roll out of our recovery phase."
The Governor cited decreased hospitalization rates, ramped up testing, and other signs showing stabilization.
“There are some very real reasons for hope and optimism right now and there is clearly a light at the end of this tunnel, but exactly how and when we will get to that light is going to be up to each and every one of us," said Hogan.
He added that his administration has been discussing and developing a plan for Maryland's recovery phase over the last several weeks.
Currently the plan will be rolled out in four building blocks. One calls for more personal protective equipment.
So far Maryland has acquired 5.9 million surgical masks, 1.5 million KN95 masks, 2.3 million surgical gowns, and 1.1 million face shields.
Another block includes building a large contact tracing operation.
Previously the state had a team of only 250 people tracing the footsteps of those diagnosed and others they may have had contact with beforehand.
On Wednesday, Hogan authorized a contract with the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) to quadruple the state's disease investigation capability in order to contact up to 1,000 new cases per day. In doing so, the state is launching a tracing platform called ‘COVID Link’ which will assist in monitoring and collecting information about people who test positive. It will utilize patient medical data from the Chesapeake Regional Information System, in accordance with privacy regulations.
The final two blocks include quickly expanding testing capacity and increasing hospital surge capacity.
On Monday, Hogan announced that 5000 testing kits had been delivered from South Korea in addition to 40,000 more from elsewhere.
To date, 76,000 tests have been conducted.
Last week the state received 1,000 ICU beds, and this week 290 oxygen concentrators, and 252 ICU ventilators are scheduled to arrive.
Maryland is planning to exceed 6,000 hospital beds between the Jessup and Hagerstown Correctional facilities, the Baltimore Convention Center, Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park, the newly renovated re-opened Laurel Medical Center, and UM Prince George’s Hospital Center in Cheverly.
The Governor is planning to reveal more on the Maryland's four-step recovery plan on Friday.
As of Wednesday there have been at least 14,775 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maryland, including 631 deaths and 67 other probable deaths. 61,754 people have tested negative.