Gov. Larry Hogan said Wednesday that the state’s fight against the coronavirus has progressed to a point at which restaurants may reopen for outdoor dining starting on Friday evening.
“Over the past two weeks we have been encouraged by all the successful Stage 1 re-openings all across the state and by the improvements in data and metrics statewide. All of this progress allows us to now safely move forward with the completion of Stage 1 of the recovery plan. Effective Friday, May 29 at 5 p.m., restaurants (as well as social organizations such as American Legions, VFW’s or Elks clubs etc.,) will be able to begin safely reopening for outdoor dining following strict public health requirements consistent with the CDC, the FDA and the National Restaurant Association,” Hogan said at a news conference at the State House in Annapolis.
“Restaurant patrons must be appropriately distanced with no more than six people seated at a table. Restaurants are required to use single-use disposable paper menus or sanitize reusable menus between each use and to sanitize outdoor tables and chairs between each customer seating. All restaurant staff must be trained in current COVID-19 health and workplace guidelines. Restaurants must begin screening procedures, including daily temperature checks of all staff. And masks or face coverings must be worn when interacting with other employees or patrons.”
Local jurisdictions are encouraged to close streets to make outdoor dining both more accessible and safe to pedestrians, he said.
On Friday evening youth camps, outdoor pools and drive-in movie theaters will be allowed to reopen with certain limitations. Youth camps will be required to limit group activities to no more than ten people and camp staff and campers will be required to undergo daily COVID symptom checks, Hogan said. Out-of-state and overnight camping is prohibited, Hogan said. Outdoor pools will be required to operate at 25 percent capacity and all patrons will be required to practice social distancing, Hogan said. They will be required to have patrons sign-in before swimming and post signs warning sick persons not to enter the premises.
The governor said it is possible that the state will be able to begin Stage 2 of the recovery process next week.
“Our coronavirus recovery team will be continuing to watch all of the data very closely. And if these encouraging trends continue into next week we would then be in a position to begin entering Stage 2 of our recovery-which would mean a lifting of the order and allowing other non-essential businesses to begin reopening.”
However, Hogan cautioned Marylanders that the fight against the virus is far from over.
“While we are moving to safely reopen our economy and put more people back to work, we want to continue to strongly stress the need to follow CDC guidelines. The fight against this virus is by no means over. Particularly as we begin to come into contact with more people. Lower risk does not mean no risk. And safer does not mean completely safe.”
The first phase of Hogan’s recovery plan went into effect on the evening of Friday May 15. Since that time some jurisdictions have decided to fully implement Stage I while others have decided to remain closed or follow a modified version of the plan. All jurisdictions except Montgomery County plan to begin Stage I by June 1. Montgomery and Prince George’s counties have seen the most positive cases in the state.
There are 48,423 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday morning, according to the state’s Department of Health, and 2,270 people in Maryland have died from the virus.
Restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of the virus have taken their toll on Maryland’s economy. The state lost 349,300 jobs during April. In March, when many of the restrictions were first implemented, Maryland lost 20,900 jobs.