ANNAPOLIS — Gov. Larry Hogan provided an update on the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and recovery on Tuesday.
Beginning Friday at 5 p.m., capacity limits will be lifted on outdoor and indoor dining.
Restaurants and bars still have to arrange distanced seating.
Capacity limits will also be lifted on retail businesses, religious facilities, fitness centers, personal services, and indoor recreational establishments (casinos, bingo halls, bowling alley, skating rinks).
Also beginning Friday, other large outdoor and indoor venues will expand to 50% capacity, including conference, wedding, and concert venues, as well as theaters, racing facilities, and sporting venues such as Camden Yards.
Masking, physical distancing, and other safety protocols will remain in place for all indoor and outdoor business and establishments.
Medical adult day care centers will also be allowed to reopen, with facilities able to set appropriate restrictions and safety measures.
Quarantine requirements and other restrictions regarding out-of-state travel will also be lifted, although a Maryland Department of Health advisory remains in place urging Marylanders to get tested upon their return.
If possible, employers are still encouraged to permit telework due to contact tracing that shows ongoing transmission among individuals in office settings.
However, Hogan stated the statewide masking order in Maryland remains in effect.
Local mayors and county executives still have final say on whether or not their jurisdiction goes along with the state.
Howard County Executive Calvin Ball issued a statement shortly after Hogan's announcement, which appeared to be non-committal.
“After the holiday surge in COVID 19 cases, Howard County residents and businesses vigilantly followed guidelines and best practices to help reduce these rates to where we are today,” said Howard County Executive Calvin Ball. “Unfortunately, we were not informed ahead of time of the Governor’s announcements today. We are currently reviewing the revised Executive Order to understand its full implications. We will continue to evaluate our metrics and we remain committed to making data informed and people driven decisions to keep Howard County residents safe."
Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott released a similar statement.
“Baltimore will continue to lean on the direction of healthcare professionals and local data on COVID-19 hospitalizations, deaths, and new cases to shape reopening efforts in Baltimore. My office will work with the Baltimore City Health Department and the Law Department to review the Governor’s executive order and determine the best path forward. I am proud of the work of Commissioner Dzirasa and the Health Department, and remain committed to ensuring recovery efforts are administered through an equitable lens that prioritizes the people and places hardest hit by COVID-19.”
The Orioles said they would be working with Scott and other leaders on how to move forward as opening day approaches.
"As always, the health and safety of our entire Birdland community remains our top priority. In accordance with Governor Hogan's announcement yesterday, we are continuing to work with the City of Baltimore, state officials, and Major League Baseball to safely welcome fans back to Oriole Park at Camden Yards with proper social distancing guidelines. As soon as we are able, we will share our plans to re-open along with our Gameday Health & Safety protocols."
Marshall Weston, President & CEO, Restaurant Association of Maryland, applauded Hogan's decision but said he was looking to see how local leaders would react.
“Restaurants are pleased to see that the Governor is taking active steps towards fully reopening without any restrictions. The lifting of capacity limits should provide assurance to the public that the Governor and his team see dining in restaurants as a safe activity. We are now looking to confirm that Baltimore City, Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties will align with the rest of the state and lift their capacity restrictions as well, providing an initial positive step on a long road to recovery for our industry.”
Also on Tuesday, Hogan touted the state's four mass vaccination sites that are now open and fully operational. The fifth will open next week in Salisbury.
A sixth in Hagerstown is set to open March 25, a week ahead of schedule.
The state is also in discussions with a number of jurisdictions regarding additional sites as supply increases.