WASHINGTON — All coronavirus capacity limits can be lifted on many major businesses in Maryland, including dining, retail and religious facilities, beginning Friday at 5 p.m., Gov. Larry Hogan said Tuesday.
Businesses have not operated with this level of freedom since March 2020, when the governor announced the shutdown of restaurants and stores, and eventually instituted a stay-at-home order.
"All of our vaccine progress along with all of our sustained positive improvements have enabled us to continue to follow the science and to be able today to take significant steps to further ease more of the mitigation measures currently in place," Hogan said.
Capacity limits will be lifted on:
- Indoor/outdoor dining
- Retail stores
- Religious facilities
- Fitness centers
- Personal services
- Bingo halls
- Bowling alleys
- Skating rinks
Restaurants and bars will still be limited to seated service only, and masks and social distancing remain required in all public spaces. The lifting of restrictions starting Friday are just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, Easter and Passover holidays.
Hogan said other large outdoor and indoor venues will expand to 50% capacity Friday, including conference and wedding spaces, concert venues, conventions, theaters, racing facilities and sports venues. Employers are encouraged to continue supporting telework when possible, according to the governor.
While Hogan's executive order will allow half-capacity at stadiums like the Baltimore Orioles' Camden Yards, the team and Major League Baseball may still decide otherwise. D.C. Health officials have given Washington the go-ahead to play their home games at Nationals Park this season but fans won't be allowed in the stands, yet.
The governor was also asked about if graduations and even high school proms can be held.
"I think as long as we follow all the health advice, then we do masking and distancing, that we should be able to get back to some of those normal things in life." Hogan said.
Hogan also said that mandatory quarantine requirements following out-of-state travel would be eliminated. Medical adult day care centers may reopen too, with facilities able to set appropriate restrictions and safety measures, his order said.
"Let’s continue to be smart," the governor said. "We can’t afford to undo all the tremendous progress that we have made together."
It is up to individual counties to decide whether they will choose to follow the governor's guidance on lifting restrictions; notably, Montgomery and Prince George's counties have in the past chosen to wait before implementing his COVID-19 policies.
WUSA9 reached out to nine Maryland counties in the region to see if they planned to follow the governor’s guidance on Friday. Only Washington County said it plans to do so.
“At this time, Washington County, Maryland, plans to follow Governor Hogan’s guidance,” Washington County Public Information Officer Danielle Weaver said in an email.
Charles, Calvert, Frederick, Howard and Montgomery counties all said Tuesday afternoon they had yet to make a decision regarding Hogan’s announcement.
“Because we learned of the executive order at the same time as the public did, we are currently reviewing it and will not have a statement at this time,” said Mary Anderson, public information officer for the Montgomery County Health and Human Services Department.
Howard County Executive Calvin Ball said Howard County will review Hogan’s guidance.
"Unfortunately, we were not informed ahead of time of the governor’s announcements today." Ball said in a statement. "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."
Anne Arundel, St. Mary’s and Prince George's counties have yet to reply.
A Hagerstown mass vaccination site will open March 25, a week ahead of schedule, Hogan said as well.
Maryland is averaging 36,258 shots per day, which is an increase of more than 1,100%, the governor said.