NORTH BETHESDA, Md. — Maryland took a big step forward Tuesday — Gov. Larry Hogan announced an end to the COVID state of emergency and all pandemic restrictions come July. But, not all businesses are ready to go full steam ahead.
Beginning on July 1, the governor said there will be no more capacity restrictions or mask mandates in any setting, including schools, camps, and child care facilities.
“There were days when I wasn't sure if we'd ever get here," Gov. Hogan said. "So it's a sense of level of emotion, happy to be at this point.”
Concert venues — some of the first to close and last to reopen — can also resume full capacity events.
“We’re thrilled to welcome people back," Monica Jeffries Hazangeles, the president and CEO of Strathmore said. "It has been a long 15 months, and we just couldn’t be happy to finally have activity in our buildings and music on our stages and art on our walls.”
However, Strathmore Music Center in North Bethesda wants to walk — not run — toward reopening.
“We’re going to move gradually. We’ve been trying to meet our patrons where they are," Jeffries Hazangeles said. "We understand not everyone is in the same place in their return to activity, and so we will have programs starting in the concert hall in august and then move gradually into the fall with a full line up.”
For the last few weeks, she said they've been holding socially-distanced outdoor concerts on their Patio Stage next to the main theater. They've been selling tickets in four-person pods and letting people watch massless.
Inside, however, will be a different story at first.
Jeffries Hazangeles said they will ask patrons to keep masks on inside for the time being, especially because they hold kids' programs inside, and not all children are eligible to be vaccinated yet.
She also said their first indoor concert — scheduled for August — will not be full capacity, but they will likely look to fill all 1,976 seats for the second one.
“We have a very spacious building," she said. "We have wonderful MERV 13 air filters. We’re taking all the proper precautions.”
Her team is excited for the sound of normalcy — live bands and orchestras playing to packed crowds.
“[The pandemic] was also full of tough decisions," she said. "We’re a little smaller than we were before, but we’re so excited to continue being connected to our community.”
Even with the restrictions rolling back, Gov. Hogan stressed that this does not mean "mission accomplished."
“The battle is not over. We're transitioning from a state of emergency to an ongoing operation," he said. "It's great to be able to at least move it into now an important operation, rather than the thing that consumes, you know, all of our time and effort.”
The governor also announced that the eviction moratorium will end on August 15, and people will have that same 45-day grace period to renew their expired driver's licenses.