ANNAPOLIS, Md. — After 14 days of "continued encouraging trends," Maryland is ready to take additional steps to complete Stage One of reopening, and loosen certain restrictions starting Friday, Gov. Larry Hogan says. Hogan cited "dramatic progress" on the state's testing capacities and contact tracing operations, decreasing positivity rates and hospitalizations, and a plateauing of ICU patients as evidence for moving forward with reopening.
Maryland reached its goal of conducting 10,000 tests per day as of Wednesday, and contact tracing capacity was increased by nearly 500%, with more than 1,400 case investigators statewide. Maryland's positivity rate peaked 41 days ago on April 17, when it reached 26.91%, and has since dropped to12.8% statewide.
"Over the past two weeks, we have been encouraged by all the successful Stage One reopenings across the state, and by all the improvements in the important data and metrics statewide," Hogan said. "All of this progress allows us to now safely move forward with the completion of Stage One of our recovery plan."
Effective Friday, May 29 at 5 p.m., restaurants can reopen outdoor dining, youth camps and sports can resume outdoor activities and pools and drive-in theaters can open, all with restrictions in place.
Restaurant restrictions include:
- Tables must be six feet apart
- No more than 6 people per table
- Single-use, disposable menus must be used, or reusable menus must be sanitized in between each use
- Tables and chairs must be sanitized in between each use
- Staff must wear masks when interacting with diners
- Daily temperature checks for staff
Hogan also encouraged local leaders to find innovative ways to support their restaurant businesses.
"We love the idea of closing streets for outside seating in Little Italy and Fells Point in Baltimore City, on West Street and Main Street in Annapolis, on Bethesda Row, and in other towns across the state," Hogan said. "Allowing for the closing of streets and expanding into parking lots and public outdoor spaces allows for safer outdoor dining, and it can help many of the struggling restaurants to survive the crisis."
Outdoor activities, such as youth sports and summer camps, must follow CDC guidelines such as:
- Limited low-contact outdoor practices focused on individual skill-building
- Limited group sizes
- Limited touching of shared equipment and gear
- Enforced physical distancing while not engaged in active play
- No more than 10 kids in a group
- Daily COVID-19 symptoms for campers and staff
- No out-of-state or overnight campers
- Masks required for staff and campers when interacting
At pools, capacity can be no more than 25% and patrons are required to sign in and out, and pool management must post signage warning anyone who is sick not to enter. Physical distancing needs to be enforced in the pool and increased sanitation procedures must be put in place.
Hogan also addressed jurisdictions that have not felt ready to enter Phase One of reopening, such as Montgomery and Prince George's counties. As of Wednesday, Montgomery County officials said the county could open "in the next week or two" following the current trend in key reopening data, but did not yet give a specific date for reopening. Prince George's County is targeting June 1 as the start of their reopening process.
"At the request of county leaders, we empowered counties to make certain decisions regarding timings of reopenings in individual jurisdictions," Hogan said. "Twenty-three of the state's 24 jurisdictions have now entered Stage One, or announced plans to do so. Now, as of Friday at 5 p.m., all are able to move forward with fully completing Stage One reopenings."
Hogan noted that Montgomery and Prince George's counties have higher positivity rates than the rest of the state, but said they have seen dramatic decreases.
In Prince George's County, positivity rates have dropped by nearly 50% from a high of 41.96% on May 2 to a current rate of 21.66%. Montgomery County's rates have dropped by more than 50% from a high of 36.24% to a current rate of 15.84%.
RELATED: Montgomery County sees 'significant improvements' but still not ready to reopen, officials say
Regarding entering Stage Two of the recovery plan, Hogan said his team will continue to watch the data.
"Our coronavirus recovery team will continue to watch metrics and if these encouraging trends continue into next week, we would then be able to enter Stage Two of recovery, lifting the order and allowing other nonessential businesses to reopen," Hogan said.
But Hogan urged all Marylanders to remain vigilant in regards to social distancing, wearing face coverings, avoiding public transit, working from home and staying indoors when possible.
"The fight against this virus is by no means over," Hogan said. "We must remain vigilant as we begin to come into contact with more people. Lower risk does not mean no risk, and safer does not mean completely safe. Just because you can do something does not mean you should. COVID-19 is still very much a deadly threat and responsible behavior is critical in our continued efforts to defeat it."
Gov. Hogan's full "Back to Business" plan can be found here.
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