At 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, Governor Larry Hogan announced what Maryland restaurant owners have been waiting to hear for three months – restaurants can officially reopen for indoor dining at 50% capacity on Friday at 5:00 p.m. This is the governor’s second action within Stage Two of Maryland’s Roadmap to Recovery. To view guidance for restaurants, click here.
This news is thrilling to many restaurant owners across Ocean City, who have been ready to return to normalcy. “We are prepping our dining room and spreading tables apart right now. We are hoping to get the green light today at 5:00!”, says Greg Shockley, owner of Shenanigan’s Pub. He and many other restaurant owners did indeed get that green light, and they say that they will be ready to go come Friday evening.
Fager’s Island, another Ocean City staple, is also among the establishments excited by the governor’s amended order. Earlier Wednesday, owner John Fager questioned why Maryland has been hesitant to begin limited indoor dining, pointing directly to information from the Maryland Department of Health, which says that “The vast majority of people recover from this infection.” Fager then asked, “Why is Maryland still locked down?” and added, “It’s time to fully open up.” Businesses like Fager’s depend on a busy and successful tourist season to stay afloat.
Governor Hogan’s announcement comes after many businesses were angered by his previous announcement on June 3th, which made no mention of restaurants. Restaurants have been open for outdoor dining since May 29th, but many owners said it simply wasn’t good enough. Wednesday, Hogan said, “While we are continuing to battle this deadly virus, we are also fighting to protect and improve the health of suffering Marylanders and small businesses…that’s why we’re continuing to push to safely reopen more and more of our economy.”
In an open letter to Governor Hogan, Susan Jones, Executive Director of the Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association voiced her frustration following his press conference last week. “How it is ok for big box stores that are indoors to be open and not indoor dining is beyond me?” Following the governor’s press conference, Jones said, ” Health officials finally see the need to balance the economic health of small businesses and the thousands of Marylanders not working…Thank you Governor Hogan”.
Also on Friday, outdoor recreational activities including miniature golf, go-karts, and rides may being operations. Capacity at pools will also increase to 50% from the previously mandated 25%. All of this is certainly positive and reassuring news for Ocean City tourism! To view guidance for outdoor amusements, click here.
Pointing to declining numbers, Hogan even added that at 5:00 p.m. on June 19th, indoor gyms and indoor studios may open at 50% capacity. Casinos, arcades, and malls may also reopen on June 19th.
State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon joined Governor Hogan for today’s press conference with encouraging news.
She says that small groups (10-15 students) are now able to enter school buildings for summer instruction. Additionally, non-public special education schools may also reopen.
To the delight of many students, Hogan announced that he encourages school systems to plan outdoor graduation ceremonies with physical distancing measures in place.
Outdoor high school sporting activities may resume for practice and training.
Child care providers are also able to reopen, with a maximum of 15 children per classroom.
Finally, Salmon said that plans regarding the reopening of schools in the fall will come later in the summer once the state has entered Stage Three.
Hogan touted more testing, which has increased by 429% over the last 50 days. 6.4% of the population has been tested, and 100% of nursing home residents and staff have been tested. The state positivity rate is now just 7.2% and he says that we have “crushed the curve”. He also spoke about recent protests across Maryland, and said that he encourages every protester to get tested for the coronavirus. This will be made possible by multiple new high-volume testing sites across Central Maryland.
To view the governor’s amended executive order, click here.