Hogan: Indoor dining to resume with restrictions on Friday

Citing a decrease in coronavirus numbers based on reopening metrics, indoor dining in Maryland may resume on Friday, with restrictions and capacity.

Gov. Larry Hogan said in an update Wednesday that starting Friday at 5 p.m., indoor dining at restaurants can start at 50% capacity, with strict public health requirements.

Hogan also said that school systems, which have been holding classes online since March, are encouraged to plan to hold safe, outdoor graduation ceremonies with strict social distancing.

State School Superintendent Karen Salmon said that summer instruction may start in person for small groups of students who have been most deeply impacted by the closure of school facilities and struggled with distance learning.

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Salmon said that high school outdoor sports may also resume practice and training activities.

In addition, outdoor amusements and rides, miniature golf and Go-Karts may resume. Outdoor pools may open at 50% capacity.

Next Friday, June 19, at 5 p.m., gyms and indoor studio fitness facilities, such as martial arts and dance studios, may reopen at 50% capacity, social distancing and increased sanitation.

Casinos, arcades and malls may also begin operations with strict health and safety protocols.

Summer school instruction; child care may resume

Salmon said that summer school programs can start in person, with a maximum of 10 to 15 people in a room within a school building.

She urged school systems to focus any return-to-school buildings on students with intense learning needs, which may include younger children, those who have struggled with distance learning, student who do not have the proper resources to participate in distance learning or the capacity to study independently, and those who are far behind.

“Now is the time for school systems to engage their equity plans,” Salmon said.

Nonpublic special education schools may also resume for students with disabilities, with small groups at the same capacity as the public schools systems.

In addition, “outdoor high school sports may resume practice and training activities,” Salmon said, adding that all sports programs must align with health and safety guidelines.

In the following days, as more facilities reopen, all child care providers may reopen, as long as they comply with health department protocols and adhere to class size restrictions. The number of children in one room that child care providers can have has been expanded to a maximum of 15 total.

Find out the guidelines on the Maryland State Department of Education’s website.

What’s open in Maryland counties

Even with the state guidelines on what and how to reopen, each Maryland jurisdiction can determine how they go about reopening.

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said Wednesday that if the latest trends on COVID-19 hold, the county would be “likely” to enter Phase Two of the lifting of safety restrictions “sometime next week.”

Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks will hold a news conference at the County Office of Emergency Management on Thursday at 11 a.m. on what Phase Two will look like for the county.

Howard County announced that it will align with the state’s reopening plan. The Mall in Columbia said in a statement that is excited to welcome back guests and employees. Shopping malls in Maryland may reopen next Friday, June 19, at 5 p.m.

Howard County parks announced at it will start reopening Thursday, and all locations will be open by Monday, with some exceptions.

New testing sites in Baltimore City

Hogan said the state’s testing capacity has been increased and announced the opening of new, high-volume testing sites across Baltimore City, including the Baltimore Convention Center.

With the new sites, there will be some 120 testing sites operating in Maryland.

The governor asked those who have attended large gatherings, such as the protests in the D.C. area, to get tested and try to avoid contact with vulnerable populations.

“We’re going to make every effort to ensure every single one of the thousands of protesters will have the opportunity to be tested,” Hogan said.

The governor said he and his team are watching the coronavirus numbers very closely amid the protests. And although there were many people of all ages who participated in the protests that was sparked by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, there were a lot of young people who maybe are not as concerned or are not as affected by the coronavirus.

However, when they get home, they may be in contact with their parents or grandparents, so “They need to know if they got the virus,” Hogan said.

Prince George’s County is also urging those who attended the mass protests to get tested.

“We stand in solidarity with all of you who call for social justice, accountability, and an end to racism,” said Prince George’s County Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for Health, Human Services, and Education Dr. George L. Askew. “We also want to keep you and others safe and well, so please take the time to be tested.”

You can find testing sites in Prince George’s County here.

Over 451,900 tests have been conducted, and 6.4% of the state’s population — including 100% of nursing home residents and staff — have been tested, Hogan said.

And, in the last 50 days, the state has increased testing by 429%.

Hogan said that Maryland has experienced the largest decline in positivity rate in the U.S., and he credited “early and aggressive actions” for flattening the curve.

Statewide, he said, the positivity rate is down to 7.2%, a more than 73% decrease since the peak 55 days at 26.9%.

Also, 23 of 24 jurisdictions have positivity rates in the single digits. Baltimore City is down 71% from a high of 27.3% on April 19 to currently 7.84%. Anne Arundel County’s positivity rate is 7.04%, Baltimore County’s is 6.07%, Frederick County is at 6.44% and Howard County is at 6.4%. These are all below the state average, Hogan said.

However, Prince George’s and Montgomery counties are still higher than the state average, but Hogan said there has been dramatic improvements.

Prince George’s County has dropped 73% from a high of 45.6% positivity rate to 11.44%. Montgomery County is down 70% from 32.6% to 9.53%.

Hogan said that hospitalization numbers from the COVID-19 illness is at 960, which is the first time it has been below 1,000 since April 10, “the lowest level in 61 days.” ICU hospitalizations is on an eight-week low at 380.

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Abigail Constantino

Abigail Constantino started her journalism career writing for a local newspaper in Fairfax County, Virginia. She is a graduate of American University and The George Washington University.

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