Howard County Executive Calvin Ball said Tuesday that some of the restrictions imposed on retail establishments, hair salons and places of worship that are aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus will be lifted on Friday morning.
The first phase of Gov. Larry Hogan’s plan to reopen Maryland went into effect on the evening of Friday May 15. That morning Ball said Howard County is not ready to fully implement Phase I. Ball instead outlined a modified version of the plan for the county to follow. Ball attributed today’s plan to loosen restrictions on declining hospital ICU numbers, increased supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) and the recruitment of additional contact tracers.
“Based upon the progress we’ve made on the governor’s four building blocks, as well as the favorable trends we are making and seeing in Howard County-I’m pleased to announce that effective Friday May 29 at 7 a.m. all retail, barbers and hair salons may open at 50 percent capacity. And religious institutions and gatherings may resume outdoors for up to 250 people. Today I will sign an executive order that puts out specific guidance for each of these industries to maintain a safe environment for employees, customers and congregants as they reopen,” Ball said in an online press gaggle.
Ball urged the county’s residents to remain vigilant in the fight against the virus.
“While we are pleased with the progress we’ve seen recently, we must not become complacent as we enter into new phases of reopening. As we begin to lift more restrictions we will continue to keep a close eye on our data and ease or tighten restrictions as needed. COVID-19 is not going away in the near future.”
Dr. Maura Rossman, the county’s health officer, echoed similar sentiments.
“As we gradually reopen and resume our new normal activities we must continue to practice social distancing, wearing facial coverings, washing our hands, and the other methods we have learned in these past ten weeks or more.”
William Anuszewski, the county’s fire and rescue chief, noted that the number of emergency transports for persons with symptoms of COVID has dropped substantially over the past three weeks.
“At one point approximately three weeks ago we were still as high as 30 transports of persons under investigation a day. In our most recent numbers over the past week [the number of transports] have dropped down to about 11 per day.”
Mike Hinson, who is director of the county’s office of Emergency Management, provided an update on the increased supply of PPE.
“Between county efforts and with the assistance of our state and federal partners, generous donations from the community-we procured over a half-a-million pieces of personal protective equipment and related supplies. We also have over a million more pieces on order currently.”
Larry Twele, who is director of the county’s Economic Development Authority, said Ball’s decision to ease restrictions will provide much-needed relief to small businesses and their employees.
“Today’s announcement will allow almost a thousand small businesses that employ almost 18,000 workers to open their doors and being to get back to work.”
Twele urged business owners as well as their employees and customers to follow safety proper safety precautions.
“We are encouraging business owners, employees and customers to follow the proper protocols so that everyone stays safe and we can continue to see the positive trends of the COVID cases-so we can take further steps to continue the reopening.”
Some jurisdictions have decided to fully implement Phase I while others have decided to either remain closed or adopt a modified version of the plan. Baltimore County loosened some restrictions last week similar to that of what Howard County plans to do.
There are 47,687 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maryland of Tuesday morning, according to the state’s Department of Health, and 2,217 people in Maryland have died from the virus.
There are 1,732 confirmed cases in Howard County as opposed to 5,498 cases in Baltimore County and 4,997 cases in Baltimore City. Prince George’s County and Montgomery County have the most confirmed cases-13,819 and 10,291.