Gov. Larry Hogan said on Friday that Maryland could be on the path to recovery by early next month and that some of the restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus could then begin to be lifted. Hogan reiterated that although Maryland has made “significant progress” on the four criteria his administration has set forth as preconditions for reopening, the state is not there yet.
“I’m optimistic that if Marylanders continue staying home and continue practicing physical distancing a little while longer that our numbers could continue to plateau. And I’m hopeful that we could then be able to begin our recovery in early May,” Hogan said at an afternoon news conference at the State House in Annapolis.
Hogan said his administration’s recovery plan, which he released, consists of three incremental stages that are dependent upon a downward trend in the number of infections:
- STAGE ONE — Lifting the stay at home order: Many of the state’s smaller businesses could reopen. “Lower-risk community activities and quality-of-life improvements” could commence. Retail shops and golf courses could reopen. Outdoor recreational activities such as boating and fishing could be permitted. “Elective outpatient surgeries and procedures” would be allowed in counties where the virus is not as prevalent. Local governments could reopen parks, playgrounds and libraries.
- STAGE TWO — More business openings: “A larger number of businesses would open, non-essential workers who cannot telework could return to work and other public activities would be able to come back online.” Indoor religious activities could be permitted with appropriate social-distancing practices in place. Regular public transportation schedules could resume as could the reopening of bars and restaurants with “significant public safety restrictions.”
- STAGE THREE — Reinstituting higher-risk activities: “Larger social gatherings, events, religious gatherings and activities at entertainment venues,” could commence. Restrictions on visits at hospitals and nursing homes could begin to be lifted.
Hogan cautioned that reopening the state too soon could have disastrous consequences.
“I want to stress that each of these recovery stages will need to be instituted in a safe, gradual and effective manner. If we try to rush this and if we don’t do it in a thoughtful and responsible way, it could cause a rebound of the virus — which could deepen the economic crisis, prolong the fiscal problems and slow our economic recovery.”
Marylanders should maintain social-distancing practices when the state begins to reopen, Hogan said.
“As we begin to reopen, it will continue to be important for Marylanders — particularly older and more vulnerable Marylanders — to continue to stay home as much as they can. All Marylanders should continue to avoid crowds and gatherings, and they should continue to practice physical distancing and to take precautions to protect themselves, their families, and their fellow Marylanders.”
Dr. Tom Inglesby, who is director of the Center for Health Security at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a member of Hogan’s coronavirus response team, echoed similar sentiments. The response team is being transitioned into a recovery team, Hogan said.
“Even when the state does begin to reopen, it will be critical for the public to know that its own individual efforts will still be very important,” Inglesby said. “Taken together, all of our collective actions and decisions will either slow this virus down or they will speed up the spread. So we’re going to need to keep wearing cloth masks in public. We’re gonna need to keep our physical space of six feet or more. And we’re gonna need to telecommute when we can and it doesn’t disrupt business operations. All of these things will make a big difference when we add them together collectively.”
Maryland Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Christine Ross praised Hogan’s plan.
“We are continually grateful for Governor Larry Hogan’s steadfast leadership throughout this unprecedented health crisis,” Ross said in a statement. “The plan he unveiled today lays out many important steps for maintaining public health and safety, and describes what a gradual re-opening of the economy will look like. We, like the governor, want to see Marylanders get back to work safely. We will continue to engage our membership to fully leverage their expertise in this area, and we hope that the governor will do the same as he continues to make vital decisions about the future of the economy.”
There were 16,616 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maryland as of Friday morning, according to the state’s Department of Health, while 723 people in Maryland have died from the virus.