Gov. Larry Hogan said on Wednesday that the state’s fight against the coronavirus has progressed to a point at which the stay-at-home order he issued on March 30 will be lifted Friday evening.
“The number of coronavirus hospitalizations is down from two weeks ago. The number of COVID ICU patients has plateaued for a significant period of time and is trending down over the past 14 days. The rate of new deaths is also trending downward. This allows us to cautiously and safely begin Stage 1 of the recovery plan. Effective this Friday, May 15 at 5 p.m. we will be lifting the stay-at-home order and we will be moving instead to a Safer-at-Home public health advisory,” Hogan said at an evening news conference at the State House in Annapolis.
Hogan said that on Friday evening “retail stores in Maryland may reopen with up to 50 percent capacity and with strong social distancing, masking and other safety precautions.” The use of curbside pick-up and delivery service are strongly encouraged, Hogan said. “Manufacturing may resume operations in a safe manner which protects the health of their employees with guidelines encouraging multiple shifts to limit the number of people working at the same time,” Hogan said.
Hogan listed some of the retail establishments that may reopen and under what conditions.
“Barbershops and hair salons may reopen at up to 50 percent capacity by appointment only and with appropriate health and safety guidelines. Pet groomers, animal adoption shelters, car washes, art galleries and some other activities will also be able to begin reopening.”
Hogan said “churches and houses of worship may begin to safely hold religious services.” The governor said that while indoor services will be permitted at “50 percent capacity or less,” outdoor services are “strongly encouraged.”
Even though the state is beginning to lift restrictions, the governor said counties and local jurisdictions will be given flexibility in deciding when they wish to reopen. Some of the state’s jurisdictions, which have experienced a higher caseload, have said they are not yet ready to reopen.
Hogan cautioned that the fight against the coronavirus is far from over.
“I want to be very clear. While lifting the stay-at-home order and gradually moving into Stage One of our recovery is a positive step forward, it does not mean that we are safe or that this crisis is over. Low-risk does not mean no-risk.”
Maryland Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Christine Ross praised Hogan’s decision to begin Stage 1 of the recovery process.
“We are grateful that the day has come to begin moving into the first phase of economic recovery. We thank the governor for his leadership and for safeguarding public health and safety throughout the pandemic. Like him, we want to see Marylanders get back to work as safely and as soon as possible,” Ross said in a statement.
“We are concerned, however, about the emerging “different rules for different jurisdictions” method to reopening and what it will mean for employers who run businesses in multiple parts of the state. This patchwork approach could prove detrimental for employers and their employees, who are already in the midst of navigating a difficult and evolving crisis situation.”
Donald Fry, president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee — a nonprofit organization that represents 500 businesses and other institutions throughout the Baltimore region, also praised Hogan’s move to begin Stage 1 of the recovery process.
“The Greater Baltimore Committee applauds the decision of Governor Hogan to lift the stay at home advisory and to initiate Stage 1 of the Maryland’s Roadmap to Recovery,” Fry said in a statement. “The limited re-opening of businesses, including retail, manufacturing, and personal service businesses such as car washes, barber shops and hair salons, is a strong step forward toward an extended economic recovery. It is critically important that we continue to adhere to the advice of public health experts as we deal with this pandemic.”