ANNAPOLIS — Restaurants and other businesses got more good news Wednesday as Gov. Larry Hogan announced that more businesses could open their doors today and next Friday as part of the state’s ongoing Roadmap to Recovery.
Hogan announced Wednesday that indoor dining across the state will be able to resume at 50 percent capacity beginning today at 5 p.m., so long as businesses continue to follow strict public health requirements. Hogan also encouraged school systems throughout the state to hold safe outdoor graduation ceremonies.
Hogan also announced that outdoor activities such as miniature golf, and rides such as go-cart riding may resume. Hogan also announced the expansion of outdoor pools to 50 percent capacity.
On June 19 at 5 p.m. several additional businesses including gyms and other indoor studio-based fitness activities may also begin to reopen at 50 percent. In addition to gyms, casinos, arcades and malls may also resume operations on that date.
State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Karen Salmon announced during Wednesday’s press conference that school systems will be able to bring small groups of students and staff into school buildings for summer school programming. According to Salmon, this means 10 to 15 individuals max in rooms.
Salmon also announced that non-public special education schools may also reopen to serve students with disabilities.
All childcare providers may also reopen and will be allowed to have up to 15 children in individual rooms, according to Salmon. Sports, specifically outdoor high school sports, may resume practice and training activities within approved guidelines previously announced for youth sports programs.
Limitations on restaurants
Hogan brought in Maryland Deputy Secretary of Health Fran Phillips, in part to provide information on the announcements regarding business reopenings that Hogan announced earlier in the press conference Wednesday.
Phillips said the department of health would issue orders Wednesday that would provide facilities with the guidance they need. With respect to indoor dining, Phillips said that in addition to keeping capacity at 50 percent, customers will need to be seated at least six feet apart, with no more than six people at a table unless they are members of the same household.
Phillips said the orders would require customers and staff to wear masks as much as possible. No buffets or self-serve dining options will be allowed at this time, she said. Phillips also mentioned that restaurant staff should be screened for illnesses.
Phillips added that her department would also be offering directives for gyms, fitness centers and other related indoor facilities. Guidance would also be provided on the conduct of youth, amateur and professional sports as well as concerts and convention events.
COVID-19 protest concerns
Hogan also discussed the ongoing protests in Maryland following the death of George Floyd during a police encounter in Minneapolis, Minn. Hogan’s focus in discussing the protest was his concern, and the concern of public health officials, regarding the public health impact of large numbers of protesters congregating in one place. Citing to former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who also serves on the state’s Coronavirus Recovery Team, Hogan said Gottlieb cited at recent study that suggests the possibility of a 250 percent increase in the rate of COVID-19 infections as a result of mass gatherings.
Based upon this information, Hogan encouraged anyone who may have participated in protests around the state to get tested immediately for the COVID-19 virus. He also recommended that those people who had participated in protests try to avoid contact with vulnerable populations. In response, Hogan said the department of health and the Maryland National Guard would be opening multiple additional sites in Baltimore City, specifically mentioning the Baltimore Convention Center as a testing location.
With the additional testing sites, the state now has 120 testing sites statewide the governor said.
In giving a statistical rundown of the status of the COVID-19 virus, Hogan said that as of Wednesday the state has performed 451,967 COVID-19 tests, noting that the testing numbers have increased 429 percent in the last 50 days. The state has now tested 6.4 percent of the population, including 100 percent of nursing home residents and staff.
Hogan said every important metric the state has been tracking has dropped. The statewide positivity rate is down to 7.2 percent, which is a decrease of over 73 percent from where the rate stood 55 days ago, he said. Hospitalizations are at their lowest point since April 10 at 960, while ICU admissions are currently 380, an eight-week low.
Cecil County Executive Alan McCarthy had this to say about the governor’s recent orders in a press release, “Cecil County will continue reopening safely to the guidelines permitted by Gov. Hogan and will wholeheartedly follow his lead to move to the next phase of Stage Two effective at 5 p.m. Friday.”