RESTAURANTS CAN REOPEN FOR OUTDOOR DINING: 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, Bryan Renbaum of Maryland Reporter reports.

  • Several restrictions must be observed, including social distancing customers, no more than six seated at a table, and menus that are single-use disposable or sanitized between each use, Briana Adhikusuma reports for Bethesda Beat.
  • Hogan said he was comfortable taking additional steps to reopen the state’s economy and lift certain restrictions on Marylanders’ movements and activities because key metrics are “trending in the right direction.” Josh Kurtz reports in Maryland Matters.
  • Youth sports also may resume for “low-contact” practices outdoors in limited groups; and youth day camps could restart outdoor activities in groups no more than 10, providing the camps require masks and engage in daily COVID-19 symptom checks, Luke Broadwater and Pamela Wood of the Sun report.
  • Allowing restaurants the ability to resume table service are part of phase two, which has yet to be reached, writes Bryan Sears for the Daily Record. Under the second phase, limits on the number of people who can gather will be raised above the current limit of 10. It also allows for indoor gym and fitness classes and a reopening of child care centers and indoor religious services.
  • Julie Greene of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail writes that Hogan cautioned people not to be lax when it comes to following critical safety practices — to continue with physical distancing and wearing masks in indoor public areas like stores.
  • Daniel Oyefusi of the Sun outlines exactly what restaurants must do to reopen and gets updates from county and city leaders about their next steps.

MO CO TO ANNOUNCE REOPENING PLANS: Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich will hold a press conference on Thursday to announce plans for reopening Montgomery County, Briana Adhikusuma of Bethesda Beat reports. Elrich has stood firm in not setting a date until the county has more improvement.

FREDERICK CONSIDERS OPTIONS: The city of Frederick is considering various options to help make restaurant reopenings happen, writes Ryan Marshall for the Frederick News Post. Those options include temporary street closures, reorganizing parking and setting up tables in parks, parking lots and other areas.

SMALL BIZ AWAITS STATE AID: Maryland officials say they have made progress both in processing and paying out grants and loans that have been slow to reach small businesses struggling to stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.But more than two months after Gov. Larry Hogan announced the aid, most businesses that applied for relief through a $125 million state program are still waiting, Lorraine Mirabella of the Sun reports.

OFFICIALS CRITICIZED OVER KOREAN KITS: Lawmakers sharply criticized two Hogan administration procurement officials Wednesday for the acquisition of incomplete COVID-19 tests kits from South Korea, Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters reports.

VOTE COUNTING HAS BEGUN: Results won’t be announced till Tuesday night, but vote counting of the 3.5 million mail-in ballots has begun. As of Wednesday, 15.6% have been returned. According to MarylandReporter.com’s analysis of figures from the State Board of Elections, here are ballots received from some counties: Anne Arundel, 20%; Washington County, 20%; Baltimore County, 21.5%; Howard County, 18.5%; Prince George’s County, 15%; Baltimore City, 12%; and a low of Montgomery County, only 5%, where voters were slow to receive ballots.

MAYOR HOPEFULS FOCUS ON CRIME: The recent spate of crime in Baltimore — nine people were killed over Memorial Day weekend and a police officer was shot overnight — loomed large over a mayoral debate Wednesday, Talia Richman of the Sun reports.

  • As much as any place in the country, Baltimore in recent years has careened between a barrage of crises — a devastating riot, corruption scandals and unceasing carnage that included, most recently, nine homicides over the long Memorial Day weekend, Paul Schwartzman reports in the Post.
  • For roughly an hour during the debate, the top six aspirants shared their proposals to mend the city’s various woes including crime, taxes and corruption. Candidates also addressed opponents’ perceived weaknesses directly, and regularly mentioned the name of the target of those critiques, Adam Bednar of the Daily Record reports.

HOWARD COUNCIL CUTS BALL’s BUDGET: The Howard County Council approved a nearly $2 billion operating and capital budget Wednesday evening for the upcoming fiscal year, reports Ana Faguy for the Howard County Times. Approximately $230 million went to the fiscal 2021 capital budget, less than the $250 million that was originally proposed by County Executive Calvin Ball on April 1. An estimated $1.57 billion went to the operating budget, which funds police, schools and other operations; this was also smaller than Ball’s proposed $1.78 billion.

SLAIN BOWIE STUDENT HONORED: Slain Bowie State ROTC student 2nd Lt. Richard W. Collins III was granted an honorary promotion on Wednesday by the secretary of the Army. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and four legislators from Maryland — U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen and U.S. Reps. Steny Hoyer and Anthony Brown — supported the decision, McKenna Oxenden of the Sun reports.

VETERAN WJZ-TV REPORTERS OUT: Veteran WJZ-TV reporters Mike Schuh and Pat Warren have been let go from the CBS local affiliate, David Zurawik reports in the Sun.