ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Governor Larry Hogan provided an update on stage one of the recovery plan for Maryland on Wednesday.
Hogan stated that he is lifting the stay-at-home order effective Friday at 5 pm, and moving instead to a Safer-at-Home public health advisory.
Retail stores in Maryland may reopen with up to 50 percent capacity; manufacturing may resume operations; personal services (barber shops and hair salons) may reopen at up to 50 percent capacity and by appointment only.
Churches and houses of worship may begin to safely hold religious services. Outside services are strongly encouraged, but inside services may be permitted at 50 percent capacity or less with appropriate safety protocols.
“Today I am pleased to announce that Maryland has achieved the 14-day trend of plateauing and declining numbers. This allows us to cautiously and safely begin Stage One of the recovery plan.”
Businesses are encouraged to take the ‘Maryland Strong: Back to Business Pledge’ to assure customers that they are adhering to best practices and strict safety guidelines.
All of these re-openings are contingent upon people continuing to social distance.
Hogan stated all Marylanders, especially older and more vulnerable populations, are advised to continue staying home as much as possible. Employers should continue to encourage telework and people should continue wearing masks in indoor public areas, retail stores, and on transit.
If Stage One activities resume without a spike in hospitalizations, a sustained spike in ICU cases, or significant outbreaks of community transmission, Hogan said Maryland will be in a position to move to Stage Two of Maryland’s recovery plan.
For a full list of what businesses can reopen and what businesses have to stay closed, click here.
Harford County Executive Barry Glassman welcomed the news and said the county would be ready to open when Hogan lifts the order on Friday.
“I am pleased to announce that in consultation with our health officer, Harford County will reopen on Friday at 5 p.m. as outlined in Gov. Hogan’s Safer at Home advisory. At the same time, all citizens should continue to follow required social distancing and safety precautions to minimize the spread of COVID-19 in our community. We have sacrificed to get to this point and we must keep working together to maintain our progress. Be smart, stay safe and God bless.“
The Carroll County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to follow Gov. Hogan’s new Executive Order to begin Stage One of the ‘Maryland Strong: Roadmap to Recover.'
Cecil County Executive Alan J. McCarthy said he would discuss plans on the county's plan to reopen on Friday at 1 p.m. on Facebook.
Hogan did however acknowledge that not all counties are in the same situation.
Prince George's and Montgomery Counties have indicated they are not ready to move into Stage One.
Meanwhile, in a joint statement, Baltimore City Mayor Jack Young and Baltimore County Executive John Olszewski, said they would be more cautious when it comes to reopening, and would have a better idea of their next steps over the next 24-hours.
Our top priority is to protect the health and well-being of our people. As Governor Hogan has acknowledged, there is not a statewide, one-size fits all approach to achieving that goal, and just four jurisdictions have 72 percent of the state’s COVID-19 cases. Baltimore City and Baltimore County are two of those jurisdictions. A flexible, community-based approach is necessary to empower individual jurisdictions to make decisions regarding timing of Phase One re-openings.
For the Baltimore region to safely move into all of Phase One, we need more access to personal protective equipment, as well as increased testing capacity and more robust contact tracing. We’ve seen some progress in each of these areas, but we have to do even more.
We are taking a close look at the specific actions announced today, and we will determine our next steps in the next 24 hours. We acknowledge that this will not be welcome news to all of our residents. Individuals and businesses continue to make real sacrifices, and those sacrifices are preventing the spread of a deadly virus. However, rushing to reopen in our large, densely populated jurisdictions jeopardizes the lives of our neighbors and loved ones.
As we work towards re-opening as soon and as safely as we can, we continue to urge residents to stay at home, wear a mask in public spaces and to remain socially-distanced if they go out. We will continue to be there for each other, and we will get through this together.
In a statement, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball echoed Young and Olszewski.
“Governor Hogan has given individual counties and regions the discretion to review our own data and make decisions about when it is appropriate us to relax certain restrictions. Howard County does not meet many of the criteria that the Governor outlined in his four building blocks to reopen.”
Ball continued, “Our testing capacity has increased; however, we have only tested about 2% of our Howard County population, or nearly 6,000 individuals to date. Based on modeling to understand full exposure, we need to test up to 6,500 individuals a week. The Governor has demonstrated a commitment to acquire more testing, however these tests will likely go to larger jurisdictions first. Additionally, we do not yet have a robust contact tracing operation, we have 11 out of 45 positions currently filled, and need more time to achieve 15 contact tracers per 100,000 residents. Howard County has also not seen a decrease in cases or hospitalizations over the last 14 days, and borders six jurisdictions, a majority of which have significant case rates.”
“Lastly, while we have ramped up our supply of PPE, it is still scarce and reopening sectors of our economy will increase demand making it more difficult to secure a safe stockpile. We do not have the building blocks in place that the Governor has outlined necessary for Stage One of reopening.
“We will continue to make decisions based on these data, and on the safety and welfare of our residents.”
The Director of the National Federation of Independent Business, Mike O’Halloran reacted this way.
“I’m sure there will be some small business owners relieved by today’s announcement. Others, namely those in jurisdictions where local leaders now get to call the shots, continue to have their fate tied to the mercy of this shutdown. Those small businesses are faced with a new challenge and now are asking, what is my local government going to decide? “Small businesses want to reopen and they tell us they are willing to do what it takes by following all the public health protocols to keep employees and customers safe. We are thankful the Governor has taken NFIB’s recommendations seriously by creating a pledge program. The program will be helpful, because if customers feel confident, they will come back and small businesses need that to survive.”
Christine Ross, president and CEO of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, today issued the following statement in response:
We are grateful that the day has come to begin moving into the first phase of economic recovery. We thank the governor for his leadership and for safeguarding public health and safety throughout the pandemic. Like him, we want to see Marylanders get back to work as safely and as soon as possible.
We are concerned, however, about the emerging “different rules for different jurisdictions” method to reopening and what it will mean for employers who run businesses in multiple parts of the state. This patchwork approach could prove detrimental for employers and their employees, who are already in the midst of navigating a difficult and evolving crisis situation.
As we continue to steadfastly advocate for our members, who are anxious to return to work, we continue to urge the governor to actively communicate and engage with members of the business community throughout each stage of the recovery process.