Due to declining coronavirus positivity rates and improved vaccine metrics the state will lift capacity restrictions on restaurants and bars and retail businesses by the end of this week, Gov. Larry Hogan said Tuesday.
Under current law, restaurants, bars, and retail establishments cannot exceed 50% capacity. Some jurisdictions have even decided to limit capacity restrictions below that figure.
Hogan said that under his latest order local jurisdictions will still have the flexibility to decide how fast they wish to reopen. It has been about one year since the state first imposed capacity and service restrictions on bars and restaurants.
“Effective this Friday, March 12 at 5 p.m., capacity limits will be lifted on outdoor and indoor dining at restaurants and bars. They will still be limited to seated and distanced service,” Hogan said at a news conference at the State House in Annapolis.
Hogan added: “Capacity limits will also be lifted for retail businesses, religious facilities, fitness centers, personal services such as hair and nail salons-and indoor recreational establishments-including casinos, bingo halls, bowling alleys, skating rinks, and other businesses.”
Hogan said that capacity restrictions for large outdoor venues such as sporting events, such as those that typically take place in the springtime at Pimlico racetrack and Camden Yards ballpark-will be permitted to resume at 50% capacity.
Hogan emphasized that Marylanders will still be required to wear masks and practice social distancing when going out in public.
MarylandReporter.com asked Hogan if he is concerned that young people might crowd bars and restaurants next week during the St. Patrick’s Day holiday. Hogan responded by emphasizing that existing health regulations will still be stringently enforced.
“We are going to make sure that people follow the rules-which is still seated, distanced, dining. You can’t be standing jammed into a bar. That’s still against the regulations. We are going to ask all the businesses to make sure that people comply. And the public health orders are still in effect. And the health department and the local jurisdictions will still be able to enforce those regulations.”
At Tuesday’s news conference, Hogan announced that the mass vaccination site at Hagerstown will open on March 25, which is one week ahead of when it was scheduled to begin service. The site is the first of its kind in western Maryland and when it opens it will mean that every region in the state has at least one mass vaccination site.
There are 388,666 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maryland as of Tuesday morning, according to the Department of Health, and 7,806 people in Maryland have died from the virus. The state’s positivity rate is at 3.4%, which is within CDC recommended guidelines for containment. Maryland has conducted more than 8.1 million COVID-19 tests.
Maryland’s health care providers have administered 1,616,567 doses of the coronavirus vaccine. That includes 1,043,950 (17.268%) first doses and 572,617 (9.472%) second doses.