The leader of one of Maryland’s key small business advocacy groups criticized a Tuesday decision by Gov. Larry Hogan to impose new restrictions on bars and restaurants and small businesses in response to the rising number of coronavirus cases in the state.
“This is a very sad day for Maryland small businesses,” National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) state chair Mike O’Halloran said in a statement. “Today’s announcement by Gov. Hogan will be a very tough pill to swallow for so many of the state’s job creators. After a summer when businesses had to claw their way back from spring shutdowns and restrictions, now they face renewed mandates which, for some, may put recovery out of reach.”
O’Halloran added: “At a time when uncertainty is at its highest since 2016, Maryland’s small businesses remain committed to the safety of their employees, customers, and clients. We hope the measures taken by the governor today won’t last long and Maryland’s small businesses can get back on their feet as soon as possible.”
Hogan announced the new restrictions at a news conference at the State House in Annapolis on Tuesday afternoon:
“Today we’re announcing that effective Friday, November 20 at 5 p.m., all bars, and restaurants statewide and all facilities, venues, nightclubs, social clubs and other establishments where food and alcohol are served, will be required to close by 10 p.m. Take-out and delivery services are encouraged to continue. But in-person dining operations at bars and restaurants and entertainment venues will not be permitted between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.”
Hogan said the decision was made in consultation with both members his coronavirus recovery task force and industry representatives and that members of both groups said capacity restrictions are most likely to be violated late at night. Last week Hogan ordered that indoor dining capacity at bars and restaurants be reduced from 75% to 50%. However, some jurisdictions have limited indoor dining capacity to even lower rates.
At Tuesday’s news conference, Hogan also announced that effective Friday evening all “retail businesses, organizations, religious institutions, establishments, and facilities statewide, will revert back to the Stage 2 50% capacity restrictions.” Hogan said that those capacity restrictions will also apply to “personal services businesses, bingo halls, bowling alleys, pool halls, roller and ice skating rinks, fitness center and social and fraternal clubs.”
Maryland entered Stage 3 of the state’s recovery plan in September.
Hogan noted that 20 of Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions now have positivity rates above 5% and that the state’s hospitalization rate has increased 100% since Nov. 1. Hogan said the actions the state is taking are necessary to prevent hospitals from being overburdened with patients.
Hogan urged Marylanders to remain vigilant in the fight against the virus.
“We are in a war right now, and the virus is winning. “Now more than ever, I am pleading with the people of our state to stand together a while longer to help us battle this surging virus. Your family and friends are counting on you, your neighbors are counting on you, and your fellow Marylanders are counting on you to stay ‘Maryland Strong.’”
There are 169,805 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maryland as of Tuesday morning, according to the state’s Department of Health, and 4,186 people in Maryland have died from the virus. Maryland’s positivity rate is at 6.85%, which is about two percentage points higher than CDC recommendations for containment. Maryland has conducted more than 3.9 million COVID-19 tests.