ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced limits to operating hours and capacity for businesses on Tuesday amid a surge in coronavirus cases, saying “we’re in a war right now, and the virus is winning.”
New limits will go into effect Friday at 5 p.m., including a 10 p.m. closing time for bars and restaurants. Also, retail businesses will be limited to 50% capacity, as well as religious institutions, personal services, fitness centers and social clubs.
The Republican governor made the announcement as Maryland reported 2,149 new cases Tuesday morning, and the state entered its second week of recording at least 1,000 cases each day.
“This virus has been with us for so long that too many of us have become numb to the staggering spike in numbers that are being announced every day,” Hogan said.
Hogan also vehemently rejected “all the disinformation that’s being spread all over social media” that seeks to downplay the seriousness of the virus.
“This is not the flu,” Hogan said. “It’s not fake news. It’s not going to magically disappear, just because we’re all tired of it and we want our normal lives back. We are in a war right now, and the virus is winning. Now more than ever, I’m pleading with the people of our state to stand together awhile longer to help us battle this surging virus.”
Hogan said he spoke with Vice President Mike Pence on Monday, and the governor was scheduled to speak with Democratic President-elect Joe Biden on Thursday. A meeting with the National Governors Association also was scheduled for later Tuesday.
“I’m very concerned that we’re in the middle of this battle with people dying and hospitals overflowing in every state in the country, and we have to make sure that there’s a smooth handoff,” Hogan said. “I’m hopeful that we will, and I think it’s getting better, but we have a brand new team that has not been involved that doesn’t really know much about what’s currently happening, and that’s a problem.”
The governor also announced no fans will be allowed at racetracks or professional and collegiate stadiums across the state.
In addition, state health officials have issued an emergency order to prohibit all hospital visitation until further notice with some exceptions, including end-of-life care, obstetrics, parents or guardians of minors, and support for people with disabilities.
The state issued an emergency order allowing hospitals that are either full or nearing capacity limits to transfer patients to hospitals that are equipped to provide them with the care they need. The step is being taken to try to ease overcrowded hospitals in some areas of the state, putting patients in hospitals where beds are available.
Maryland reported Tuesday that hospitalizations due to the virus are up to 1,046. That’s an increase of 61 from the previous day.
The state also reported 26 deaths in a 24-hour period. Maryland has reported a total of at least 4,186 deaths from the coronavirus.
State health officials issued guidance warning hospitals and other medical facilities to avoid any elective procedure admissions that are not urgent or life-saving.
The governor also announced new limits on nursing home visitation. Until further notice, indoor visitation at Maryland nursing homes will generally be limited to compassionate care, and all visitors must have proof of a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours before their visit. Nursing homes will have mandatory twice-weekly testing for all staff, as well as mandatory weekly testing for all nursing home residents, effective no later than Nov. 20.