HOGAN LIFTS SOME RESTRICTIONS: Effective 5 p.m. Friday, Gov. Larry Hogan is replacing the stay-at-home order and implementing a “Safer at Home” advisory that will not be enforced by the rule of law and allows for more flexibility, McKenna Oxenden of the Baltimore Sun reports. Hogan’s order gives each local government the ability to pick and choose what reopens and when because he “fully understands” every county isn’t in the same situation.

  • Bryan Renbaum of MarylandReporter writes that 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.
  • Also, Maryland barbershops and hair salons can reopen by appointment only, and manufacturers may resume operations with social distancing measures in place. Virginia has also begun to lift restrictions, but D.C. will continue the stay-at-home order and closure of nonessential businesses through June 8, Ovetta Wiggins, Erin Cox and Fenit Nirappil report for the Washington Post.
  • The move means most businesses can reopen and churches can hold services — both at limited capacity. But Hogan cautioned that the adoption of “Stage 1” of the state’s reopening plan depends on residents wearing masks and practicing social distancing, Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters reports.
  • However, most of the limits on social and business interactions will remain in place as coronavirus deaths and cases continue to climb, Erin Cox and Ovetta Wiggins write in the Post.

MIXED RESPONSE FROM COUNTY, CITY LEADERS: At least one commissioner believes Carroll County is ready for this next phase. Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, said, “Based upon our numbers and the actions of our citizens, we’re ready,” Mary Grace Keller of the Carroll County Times reports.

  • Hogan said officials in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties — which, combined, have about 50% of Maryland’s cases — “have made it clear they are not ready.” Caitlynn Peetz of Bethesda Beat reports that Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich reiterated that on Twitter, writing, “the science shows we are not ready to take that step. We are in a densely-populated environment with nearly 400 COVID-19 deaths.”
  • Some officials have said the state’s eight largest counties will form a pact to coordinate reopening plans. But other officials say that while they plan to work together, there’s no formalized agreement. A Baltimore Sun team reports on what these counties and Baltimore City plan to do.
  • Baltimore Mayor Jack Young and Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. are reviewing the governor’s plan to lift the state’s stay-at-home order, saying Wednesday evening they need time to decide how to reopen while protecting public health, Alison Knezevich of the Sun reports.
  • Young and Olszewski issued a joint statement, WBFF-TV reports.
  • Harford County Executive Barry Glassman said the county will open as much as allowable on Friday. Of localities with 500 or more confirmed cases, Harford has the lowest number of cases and deaths per capita, Glassman said, contributing to the decision to reopen the county as much as possible — though other metrics like hospitalizations and available beds weighed in the determination as well, James Whitlow of the Aegis reports.
  • Cecil County Executive Alan McCarthy stressed the importance of interdepartmental coordination and advising as reopenings occur. In Cecil County, he said, he plans to also reopen in a systematic way, Candice Spector and B. Rae Perryman of the Cecil Whig report.

LABOR CHIEF DEFENDS JOBLESS-CLAIM EFFORTS: The head of the Maryland Department of Labor told state lawmakers on Wednesday that the government has made enormous strides to address the unprecedented surge in unemployment insurance claims — and she pledged to continue efforts to train new staff and fine-tune the technology her agency is using, Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters reports.

FOOD-STAMP APPLICATIONS HIT RECORD HIGH: Just as Marylanders have been applying for unemployment assistance in droves during the coronavirus pandemic, they’ve also turned in a record number of applications for food stamps — and lawmakers are concerned that the state isn’t doing everything possible to process those applications, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports.

COVID VICTIM’S KIN WANTS NURSING HOME CEO  FIRED: The daughter of a Sagepoint Senior Living Services resident who died April 11 from Covid-19 called for the firing of Sagepoint President and CEO Andrea Dwyer, after learning state officials concluded the LaPlata facility failed to protect residents and staff from the deadly virus, Glynis Kazanjian reports for the Baltimore Post-Examiner.

MAYORAL CANDIDATES DEBATE: Candidates met virtually Wednesday for the first debate of Baltimore City’s 2020 mayoral race that aired exclusively on WBAL-TV 11. During the hourlong Zoom debate, the candidates answered questions ranging from gun violence and education to economic recovery following the coronavirus pandemic. However, some mudslinging and accusations were thrown around as Mayor Jack Young defended his record.

MAYOR’S RACE: PROFILE OF T.J. SMITH: With a war chest much more modest than those of the other top Democratic candidates for Baltimore mayor, former city police spokesperson T.J. Smith used every opportunity he could to meet voters face-to-face: knocking on doors, shaking hands at community forums and waving campaign signs at busy intersections, Alison Knezevich reports in the Sun.

SUPER PAC TARGETS WHITE VOTERS: A political action committee supporting Baltimore mayoral candidate Mary Miller is seeking to win the Balkanized race by attracting white voters in the majority-black city, according to an email obtained by the Sun, Luke Broadwater reports.

MO CO COUNCIL VOTES DOWN WORKER PAY HIKES: On Tuesday, the majority of the Montgomery County Council voted for no pay raises for union and nonunion employees next year, since the county expects to have revenue shortfalls of up to $600 million combined in the current year and again next year, Briana Adhikusuma reports in Bethesda Beat.

BUDGET CUTS EXPECTED IN BA CO: Baltimore County is dealing with a budget shortfall projected to be at least $172 million, caused by the wrecking of the economy by the COVID-19 pandemic. Cuts to the school budget as well as delaying pay increases for county employees are on the table, John Lee of WYPR-FM reports.