Beginning Friday at 5 p.m., face coverings will be required for those over the age of five in public spaces of all businesses across the state, and in outdoor public areas where social distancing is not possible, Governor Larry Hogan announced Wednesday. This includes religious facilities, retail establishments, foodservice establishments, fitness centers, and indoor recreation facilities. This order expands the mask requirement that was first enacted on April 18.
Baltimore County and Anne Arundel County have already tightened local mask restrictions while Baltimore City shut down indoor dining. Hogan reiterated that each jurisdiction has the power to make these individual decisions and can add restrictions on top of state orders.
During Wednesday’s press conference, the governor put a pause on Maryland’s reopening process, saying that Maryland is at a “fork in the road – a critical turning point where we could either continue making progress, or we could ignore the warnings and spike back up like much of the rest of the country.” While a move to stage three is unlikely anytime soon, Hogan certainly does not want to move backward and close businesses once again.
The governor also announced that the Maryland Department of Health has issued a new travel advisory, which urges Marylanders to refrain from visiting states with a positivity rate of 10% or higher. The states currently on the department’s list include: Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, and Texas.
Those that opt to travel should get tested and self-quarantine until receiving a negative test.
Governor Hogan has refrained from imposing a post-travel two-week quarantine if you visit other states, and instead, is simply advising Marylanders not to travel to areas experiencing Covid-19 surges.
Hogan discussed the state’s increased contact tracing operation, which can now pinpoint specific locations and activities from which people are contracting cases of Covid-19.
Interviews with patients revealed that 44% attended family gatherings, 23% attended house parties, and 21% attended outdoor events.
Tracers found that many activities are indeed risky. These activities include working outside of the home (54%), shopping at retail stores (39%), outdoor dining (23%), and indoor dining (23%).
Based on this data, the governor strongly recommends that people continue to telework.
The Latest Data
Hogan is alarmed by the spike in hospitalizations and the positivity rate among those under 35. These key metrics triggered a ‘STOP SIGN” in the Roadmap to Recovery.
- There are now 86,285 Covid-19 cases in the State of Maryland, with 508 cases in Worcester County
- Cases in Worcester County have increased by 175% since Memorial Day and 74% since Independence Day
- The seven-day statewide positivity rate is 4.77% (up 0.23% from Tuesday) and the positivity rate in Worcester County is 4.55% (down from a high of 7.37% on July 21)
- The positivity rate for those over 35 is 3.80%
- The positivity rate for those under 35 is 6.72%
- 56% of new infections are from Marylanders under 40
- Hospitalizations are at 571, which is up from 544 on Tuesday
Governor Hogan touted Maryland’s robust testing capabilities. More than 1.1 million tests have been logged across the state.
Despite this surplus of tests, many are not receiving results for periods of up to two weeks, making the tests virtually worthless. The governor called this “unacceptable” and said that the federal government is working to address this nationwide issue. “The White House has committed to work with commercial labs to achieve quicker turnaround times, and to expand deployment of rapid point-of-care testing,” Hogan said.
To address these delays, Marylanders should use state-operated testing sites, which can provide results within 24-48 hours.
Testing in Worcester County
Free tests are available in Worcester County at the West Ocean City Park and Ride on Mondays and Wednesdays from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Testing is by appointment only and ID is required.
Other testing sites in Ocean City include the 75th Street Injury and Illness Center, Atlantic ImmediCare at Townsend Medical Center, and the CVS Pharmacy at 120th Street. Appointments are required.
Testing has certainly ramped up across Worcester County. “We’ve assisted with over 2,000 tests in that time period providing tests at the West Ocean City Park and Ride on Mondays/Wednesdays and in collaboration with Atlantic General Hospital at the Pocomoke Health Center on Tuesdays/Thursdays,” said Summer Widmyer, Public Affairs Specialist for the Worcester County Health Department.
To find a testing site, click here.
The Worcester County Health Department is working to make the process of receiving test results easier. Last week, the department tweeted, “If you received a Covid-19 test from Worcester County Health Department, you can get easy, online access to lab results you can understand. Simply text: MAKO to 66349 or, if you don’t have a smartphone, go to: mako.luminatehealth.com to set up your patient portal.”
Next Federal Coronavirus Relief Bill
As leaders on Capitol Hill continue to work on the next coronavirus relief package, Governor Hogan, who serves as the National Governors Association chair, is pushing for funding for state and local governments. Governor Hogan and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo released the following statement: “Financial aid to states is one of the most important economic tools available to the federal government. While the Senate proposal is disappointing, we continue to believe there is significant common ground for an agreement that will help state and local governments. We stand firm in our request for federal aid in the amount of $500 billion over the next three years. This will ensure a strong recovery for our nation. It is time for Congress to come together to help restore our nation’s health and economy.”
Deputy Health Secretary Fran Phillips Retires
Governor Hogan announced that Deputy Health Secretary Fran Phillips is retiring. Phillips has been a strong presence at the governor’s Covid-19 press conferences over the last several months and has been working in public health for decades. Phillips came out of retirement for a second stint with the state less than two years ago. She will be replaced by Dr. Jinlene Chan, who currently serves as Assistant Health Secretary. Chan has worked with Phillips for decades.
Hogan was very complimentary of Phillps’ efforts to combat Covid-19 and increase Maryland’s testing capabilities. He presented her with a citation in honor of her retirement.