Hogan tightens mask order, warns against travel to several states

Gov. Larry Hogan, during a press conference Wednesday, July 29, in Annapolis, issued tighter restrictions on mask-wearing to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, and warned Marylanders against traveling to states reporting positivity rates greater than 10%.

ANNAPOLIS — In response to a continuing rise in coronavirus infections across Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan on Wednesday, July 29, warned residents against traveling to certain states and expanded statewide masking restrictions to include public areas of all businesses and some outdoor public spaces.

Hogan said the broadened masking mandate, which takes effect at 5 p.m. Friday, July 31, applies to outside public areas where maintaining a six-foot distance from non-household members is not possible, and all indoor spaces where “interaction with others is likely,” such as shared office spaces.

The updated rules are an expansion of the governor’s previous order that established a mask requirement in grocery stores, pharmacies, retail and food service establishments, and on public transportation.

Among the states Marylanders are advised against visiting “until their positivity rates decline,” Hogan said, are Florida, Texas, Georgia, South Carolina, Louisiana, Nebraska, Idaho, Alabama and Alaska — all of which are reporting significant spread of the coronavirus and positivity rates greater than 10%.

Hogan said Marylanders who must travel out-of-area to the advised-against states are encouraged to immediately self-quarantine and get tested for the coronavirus upon their return to Maryland.

The governor’s travel warnings and expanded masking restrictions come in reaction to increasing coronavirus-related hospitalizations in Maryland and are fueled by his desire to avoid shutting the state down again if there’s a resurgence of infections.

Hogan called his move to establish the new rules “fact-based” and “apolitical,” and said his team of experts “unanimously felt this was the only step we needed to take right now.”

To illustrate Maryland’s need for the “simple steps,” the governor pointed to other states across the country that have had to reimpose shutdowns after premature re-openings. “We don’t want to be in that position,” he said.

A “simple thing like masking,” Hogan said, will keep Maryland from shutting down, which would be especially difficult considering that “very few things” remain closed in the state.

The governor also said Wednesday the Maryland Department of Health’s contact tracing efforts have helped public health leaders determine the activities that are posing the highest risk to Marylanders for contracting the virus.

Family gatherings, Hogan said, have accounted for 44% of infections, house parties 23% and outdoor gatherings 21%. Other higher-risk activities include working outside of home, which was linked to 54% of infections, retail shopping at 39%, outdoor dining at 23% and indoor dining at 23%.

Of those individuals who are becoming infected at workplaces, 25% worked in healthcare, 23% in non-public-facing offices, 13% in public-facing workspaces and 12% in food service, the governor said.

Hogan said “time will tell” whether the travel advisory and the increased masking restrictions help stave off a predicted surge of infections as the virus continues to rage across Maryland. He said his team of experts “seem to think these steps will help, but it’s by no means a guarantee.”

“There’s no guarantee that we can stop it, but these are steps that could help and they’re pretty simple steps,” the governor said, adding, Maryland is in “much better shape” than it was in the spring, but “it is not a guarantee that we’re not going to be in bad shape in the fall or in the months to come.”

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