ANNAPOLIS — Gov. Larry Hogan announced Wednesday evening that he is lifting the state's stay-at-home order and reopening some shuttered businesses, effective at 5 p.m. on Friday, May 15.
The decision comes after Maryland has seen consistent plateauing and declining of key coronavirus metrics, such as hospitalizations and critical patients.
Not all businesses will be allowed to resume operations as of the announcement. Hogan listed retail stores, barber shops, hair salons, pet groomers, car washes, art galleries, manufacturing facilities and churches among those that will be authorized to reopen with 50% capacity limits and an adherence to the appropriate safety protocols.
'Safer at Home'
Hogan said lifting the stay-at-home order means Marylanders will no longer be legally forced to stay home, but will be encouraged to do so when possible under a "Safer at Home" advisory.
The governor advised people to continue to telework and work from home if possible, and to maintain a 6 feet distance from others, to avoid groups of more than 10 people, and wear masks in public places, including inside stores and while using public transportation.
Retail stores, he said, should still encourage their customers to pick up their items curbside or have them delivered. Hair salons must service clients by appointment only and churches are "strongly encouraged" to hold outdoor services when possible.
Despite Maryland's entering Stage One of the state's Roadmap to Recovery on Friday, Hogan warned he's fully prepared to reintroduce restrictions if unforeseen community spread outbreaks occur of if there is a significant spike in any of the metrics his team has deemed necessary for a safe reopening.
Hogan didn't offer a timeline for the state's launching into Stage Two of its recovery plan, but he said the speed at which Maryland moves will depend on whether Stage One activities "resume successfully."
Flexible reopening for some areas
Although many Maryland residents have vocalized a desire to return to normalcy, Hogan acknowledged that not all of the state's jurisdictions have been affected by the coronavirus health crisis equitably.
Four of Maryland's jurisdictions account for more than 70% of the state's entire confirmed COVID-19 case count, Hogan said, adding that his approach to reopening is flexible and community based so that local leaders have the authority to make their own Stage One reopening decisions.
Prince George's and Montgomery counties, which host the most confirmed cases in the state, "have made clear" they're not yet ready to move into Stage One, he said.
Of his decision to ease restrictions and gradually move Maryland into the beginnings of its recovery, the governor said it's a "positive step forward," but it "it does not mean we are safe or that this crisis is over."
"This virus will continue to be with us and be a part of our daily lives, and will remain a deadly threat until a vaccine is widely available," Hogan said, adding, "We still have miles to go on this road."
McCarthy to hold presser
In a May 13th message, Cecil County Executive Alan McCarthy stressed the importance of interdepartmental coordination and advising as reopenings occur. In Cecil County, he said, he plans to also reopen in a systematic way.
"Working cooperatively with Cecil County Health Officer Lauren Levy and Director of Emergency Services, Richard Brooks, along with Sheriff Scott Adams and department leaders within county government, my intent is to create a plan that will begin to reopen our county while maintaining the health and safety of all Cecil County citizens," his message said.
"Our plan to Reopen Cecil County will be also be a phased approach. Though it is my sincere expectation to return our local economy to a place where our citizens are back to work and our small businesses are once again thriving, I will not expose our citizens to unnecessary risks that endangers the overall health of our community."
McCarthy will hold a press conference on Friday, May 15 at 1 p.m. via the county's Facebook Live to discuss his plan to "gradually lessen" restrictions and responsibly open the county.