ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Tuesday that he was authorizing the state to move to the third and final stage of its "Maryland Strong: Roadmap to Recovery" reopening plan, as of Friday at 5 p.m.
With the statewide positivity rate remaining under 5% for 68 consecutive days, Hogan said he would allow all Maryland businesses to reopen, with some restrictions still in place, including encouraging social distancing and wearing of masks.
On Wednesday, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said the area will not be following Hogan's plan, instead modifying Phase 2 of the county's plan.
"We're making progress, but we're not where we need to be," he said in the September 2 coronavirus briefing, announcing he was "disappointed" in Maryland for continuing to move into reopening. "It's not party time."
More guidance on what activities will be permitted ahead of Labor Day weekend will be announced Friday, September 5, said County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles.
Movie theater's and live entertainment venues in Maryland can reopen at 50% capacity, or up to 100 guests at indoor facilities and up to 250 in outdoor spaces. Houses of worship and retail locations can increase from 50% to 75% capacity.
The governor emphasized that by law, counties can choose not to enter stage 3 of reopening yet, if the COVID data in their individual jurisdictions does not support that move.
Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich originally responded that the announcement had taken him by surprise and the county would "need time to review the Governor’s orders to determine the best way forward."
"Unlike many states across the country, we were able to keep more than 70% of our economy throughout the crisis," Hogan said. "And we have had more than 98% of our economy open since we completed all stage 2 reopenings on June 19."
Maryland's positivity rate is currently 3.39%, a decline of more than 87% since its peak of 26.91% on April 17, and 15 of the state's 24 jurisdictions have positivity rates below 3.5%.
Hogan also noted that a new metric being utilized by Johns Hopkins, the CDC and the White House Coronavirus Task Force, cases per 100,000, has dropped by 45% in the last month.
"I want to remind the people of Maryland that moving into stage 3 does not mean that this crisis is behind us, and remind them that we must remain vigilant so that we can keep Maryland open for business," Hogan said.
The governor urged Marylanders to be safe over the holiday weekend, particularly regarding family gatherings, which remains the number one activity of those that have tested positive for coronavirus since mid-July, according to contact tracing data.
To enhance contact tracing efforts, Maryland will be one of the first states to use a new app from Apple/Google called "Exposure Notifications Express." The app is designed to more quickly provide notifications for residents about potential COVID-19 exposure.