Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced major actions to combat the Covid-19 surge during a press conference Tuesday. Effective Friday at 5 p.m., all bars, restaurants, and other establishments where food and alcohol are served must close at 10 p.m. Carryout and delivery services are permitted to continue after 10 p.m. Pointing to research from state officials, Hogan noted that compliance with distancing requirements drops drastically later in the evening.
In addition to the new order for restaurants, Hogan announced that retail and religious institutions must return to 50% capacity by Friday at 5 p.m. That includes stores, houses of worship, bingo and pool halls, skating rinks, social clubs, personal services, and bowling alleys. Hogan also mentioned that no spectators are permitted to attend games at professional or collegiate stadiums. These limitations are consistent with Phase 2 restrictions.
Hogan’s announcements come after several weeks of alarming upticks across the state. Despite widespread Covid fatigue, the return of the governor’s frequent press conferences serves as a reminder that the fight is far from over. According to Hogan, Marylanders need to step things up. “We are in a war right now, and the virus is winning,” he said. “Now more than ever, I am pleading with the people of our state to stand together a while longer to help us battle this surging virus.”
The governor’s tone was much more urgent Tuesday, warning Marylanders that the worst could be ahead if they neglect to stay vigilant. “This is not the flu. It’s not fake news. It’s not going to magically disappear because we’re all tired of it, and we want our normal lives back,” Hogan said.
Some components of the executive order released last week remain in effect. Capacity for indoor gatherings is still no more than 25 people, and individual jurisdictions are permitted to take more extensive actions. The travel restriction, applying to states with a positivity rate above 10% or average case rates above 20 per 100,000, also stands.
Hogan’s address followed the release of grim and startling data. On Tuesday, the positivity rate climbed to 6.85%, and cases rose by more than 2,000. More than 1,000 new cases have been added each day for the past 13 days. Hospitalizations jumped over 1,000 for the first time since June 7, and cases per 100,000 are up to 29, representing a 46% increase over the past week.
Hospital & Nursing Home Restrictions
With more Covid-19 patients heading to the hospital, Hogan announced the return of many actions he first took in the spring. Hospital visitations are no longer permitted, with the exceptions of “compassionate care, parents or guardians of minors, obstetrics, and support for patients with disabilities.” Elective procedures deemed non-urgent or non-lifesaving must be put on hold.
Of all the pandemic woes Hogan discussed, he appeared most concerned about hospital capacity. The data does indeed tell a worrisome story. Western Maryland hospitals have already reached capacity, and 19 hospitals are 90% full. “Our highest priority right now is preserving capacity at our hospitals so that our doctors and nurses can do their jobs and make sure people get the right critical, life-saving treatment,” Hogan said.
Visitation at nursing homes is also limited to compassionate care visits only, with a negative test result required. Twice-weekly testing will also be mandated for nursing home staff and residents.
Hogan’s Plea to Marylanders
Clearly alarmed and concerned, Hogan delivered a stern warning from the podium. With Thanksgiving and the holiday season right around the corner, he hopes that people do not let their guard down and remain as vigilant as possible. Hogan himself even canceled his Thanksgiving plans and encouraged others to do the same.
For those that still decide to gather, a negative test result is recommended. “If you are a college student planning to come home, get tested,” Hogan pleaded. “If you are seeing a grandparent, get tested. If you are returning from out of state travel, get tested. Maryland has over 220 testing sites.” Skipping out on a family gathering or taking the time to get tested are some of the necessary sacrifices he says people must make.
Masks are still required in all indoor establishments and outdoors when social distancing is not possible. The governor reiterated his stance on masks. “Wearing a mask is the single best way to keep you and family members safe,” Hogan said. “This is not a political issue.”
Read: Press Release
To find a Maryland Covid-19 testing site, click here.