MARYLAND, USA — Beginning Monday, Feb. 1, bars and restaurants across the state of Maryland will be able to stay open past 10 p.m., a reversal of a move made to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Larry Hogan’s office announced Thursday afternoon.
The governor issued an emergency order that will allow the change starting Monday. In making the move, Hogan cited the decrease of COVID-19 positivity and case rates in addition to fewer hospitalizations and new cases.
“With our data trends showing continued improvement, the holiday surges behind us, and the increasing speed of vaccinations, we are now able to take this step,” Hogan said in a release. “Marylanders must continue to remain cautious and vigilant in order to keep ourselves, our families, and our communities safe and healthy.”
The new emergency order keeps the capacity cap for restaurants at 50%. It also requires diners to be seated and prohibits buffet dining.
On Monday, Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks announced that indoor dining will be permitted at a 25% capacity starting Friday, Jan. 30 after recent data showed a decline in cases in the county.
Back on Jan. 14, Alsobrooks moved to prohibit indoor dining because the county's positivity rate had stayed above 10% for nearly two weeks and the daily case rate stayed at a “critical level” since Nov. 9.
Now, recent data released for the week of Jan. 19 shows that the county is seeing a downward trend in cases. According to health officials, as of Monday, the county's overall positivity rate stands at 9.2%.
They also report that the infection rate is currently at 0.93%.
Outdoor dining in Prince George's County will continue to be limited to 50% capacity, and restaurants may continue to offer takeout meals and curbside service.
Alsobrooks said health officials will continue to monitor data for the weeks ahead. In the meantime, officials are asking residents and restaurant owners to adhere to CDC guidelines to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Montgomery County's ban on indoor dining, however, is still in effect and doesn’t currently have a set expiration date.
“No one is trying to put people out of business,” Montgomery County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles said in December. "But we do have to adhere to policy and practices to keep our representatives safe.”
Gayles said the county is relying on data from Johns Hopkins that says stricter measures on indoor dining will decrease hospitalizations by 20% to 30%. According to the health officer, ICU and acute care beds were filling up fast throughout the state.
D.C. lifted its ban on indoor dining on Jan. 22, returning to a 25% capacity limit.