ANNAPOLIS — The fast-evolving circumstances surrounding the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, across Maryland and the world prompted Gov. Larry Hogan to order the closure of nonessential businesses, effective at 5 p.m. Monday, March 23.
The announcement is the latest in a string of restrictions on Marylanders, and comes just days after Hogan ordered the statewide shuttering of enclosed shopping malls and entertainment venues, and limited the public's access to public transportation and airports.
As of Monday morning, Hogan said Maryland has 288 confirmed cases of COVID-19, two of which were reported in a 10-month-old and a 5-year-old. Three Marylanders have died after contracting the virus, including a Montgomery County woman in her 30s, he said.
The statewide closure directive excludes the following businesses and services, which will be allowed to remain operational:
Food and other goods
— Grocery stores, convenience stores, pharmacies, liquor stores, farmers markets, farms and food production operations.
Cleaning, construction and maintenance
— Plumbers, electricians, HVAC service work, janitorial services, roofing, self-storage facilities, laundromats and dry cleaners.
Communications and broadcasting
— Cable, phone and internet providers, newspapers, and television and radio communications.
— Banks, credit unions, lenders, payroll, and insurance companies.
Health and emergency services
— Health care and public health operations, law enforcement, emergency management work, and fire and rescue.
Transportation and goods deliveries
— Airports, railroads, delivery services, auto repair shops and trucking, among others.
Manufacturing and infrastructure
— Energy, defense production, medical supplies production, and water and wastewater systems.
Hogan clarified the move is not a stay-at-home directive. Rather than order people to stay home, Hogan said, he determined it would be more effective to close the nonessential places people might gather — though he still urges people to stay home and avoid gathering in groups of more than 10 people.
"Our orders, we believe, are more encompassing and perhaps more effective (than a shelter-in-place order)," Hogan said. "It’s all semantics, really. Some states have said, 'There’s a shelter-in-place order, but we’re going to leave all these businesses open.'
"We’ve said, ‘We want you to stay in your house, but we’re going to close all of these things.’ I think our actions are actually more aggressive than some states who have ordered shelter-in-place, but it’s not as draconian as locking people in their homes," Hogan said, calling the directive a "better, smarter action for us."
Hogan acknowledged, though, that Maryland has not yet hit its peak of COVID-19 cases and it will be difficult to determine the real-time effectiveness of the restrictive measures the state has imposed during the past week.
"The question is, these actions that we have taken, how much good are they going to do?" Hogan said. "We’re hoping they’re going to stop tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people from being infected in Maryland and hopefully save the lives of thousands of Marylanders."
The governor called the closure of nonessential businesses "much needed" and said, "I know how incredibly difficult this is on each and every one of you."
"There is a great deal of fear and anxiety," Hogan said. "The truth is, none of us really knows how bad it’s going to get or how long it’s going to last.
"But I can promise you there are a great many dedicated people doing some tremendous things, working around the clock and doing their very best to help keep the people of Maryland safe."
For a comprehensive, Hogan administration-issued list of what's open and closed during the nonessential business shutdown, visit https://governor.maryland.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/OLC-Interpretive-Guidance-COVID19-04.pdf.