ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland is instituting new limits on public gatherings and travel ahead of the holiday season in an effort to contain COVID-19. The new restrictions come as the state continues to see an alarming spike in coronavirus deaths.
Gov. Larry Hogan announced Thursday that a public health advisory has been issued to restrict indoor gathering limits to no more than 10 people (previously 25) and strongly advises against all non-essential travel. Anyone traveling to or from Maryland must have a negative COVID-19 test or self-quarantine for 10 days after arrival. Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and D.C. are the only localities exempt from the travel requirements.
"We all look forward to hosting or attending family gatherings and holiday parties,” Hogan said. “Unfortunately, these are the very things that contact tracing consistently shows are the most dangerous things we can do.”
Violation of the travel order is a misdemeanor that could result in up to a year in jail time and/or up to a $5,000 fine. When asked how the travel restrictions would be enforced, Hogan said he would be relying on the "good faith" of Marylanders to listen to the orders.
Hogan opened his press conference Thursday by reporting that the state's metrics are "relatively stable" but said that community spread continues to be a concern. He praised the state for "stepping up" and following guidance over Thanksgiving, including getting tested in record numbers, diligently wearing masks and canceling travel plans.
"As a result, the post-Thanksgiving surge has not materialized in Maryland to the extent that public health officials predicted," Hogan said. "After doing so well for so long, we simply cannot afford to let our guard down over the holidays during this very critical time."
Hogan noted that Maryland's percent positivity rate -- currently at 7.73% -- is the eighth lowest in the country. While the state has now been averaging more than 40 deaths a day from COVID-19 for three days straight, Hogan said the percentage of hospital admissions has not changed in two weeks.
State employees who can telework were also mandated to do so, and beginning Dec. 21, in-person operations at all state facilities will be suspended for two weeks.
"Our strongest defense against this virus continues to be the cooperation and the vigilance of the people of Maryland," Hogan said. "Our message today is simple: you are safer at home for the holidays this year.”