Md. health officials want COVID-19 restrictions back; Hogan says state numbers ‘good’

Maryland health officers sent a letter to the state Monday asking for restrictions on bars and restaurants to resume during the coronavirus pandemic.

It comes as the state and jurisdictions across the U.S. are seeing a spike in virus numbers.

“We are writing to share our concerns regarding the recent increase in daily cases across the state and impact of the virus over the past week,” said health officers from Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and Baltimore City in the letter.

“This has been evidenced throughout many of our jurisdictions by increased daily case totals, increased rates of transmission and increasing COVID-related hospitalizations and critical care usage. We are writing to ask that the state take action to curb these trends, including revisiting the activities allowed under the current Phase 2 executive orders.”


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The letter reads:

“Good morning and thank you for your leadership and support throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. We are writing to share our concerns regarding the recent increase in daily cases across the state and impact of the virus over the past week. This has been evidenced throughout many of our jurisdictions by increased daily case totals, increased rates of transmission (Ro), and increasing Covid related hospitalizations and critical care usage. We are writing to ask that the state take action to curb these trends, including revisiting the activities allowed under the current Phase 2 Executive orders. Our respective jurisdictions are considering a range of revisions to address these trends, including, but not limited to (recognizing we all have different provisions as a part of our current Phase 2 provisions):

  • Restrictions on gathering sizes (up to 10 or 50)
  • face covering mandates for indoor and outdoor activities,
  • closure of indoor restaurants and bars for service, permitting outdoor seating/curbside pick-up and delivery services only,
  • closure of indoor amusement facilities,
  • closure of indoor recreational facilities,
  • restrictions on travel to and from areas deemed Covid hotspots
  • closure of indoor mall activities such as food courts and allowing indoor spaces solely for entrance to stores;

Our jurisdictions are prepared to act quickly to address these concerns but would prefer for the state to take action to create a unified, standardized approach to address this resurgence of cases. Thank you for considering our request, and we look forward to continuing to work together.

Sincerely,
Health Officers from Anne Arundel County, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Howard County, Montgomery County, and Prince George’s County”

As Maryland county health officers raised alarms about the coronavirus response, Gov. Larry Hogan said the situation still looks good overall for the state.

“Our positivity rate has actually been relatively flat and on a slightly declining level for at least three weeks now. We’re better than what’s going on in a lot of places,” Hogan said during an American Enterprise Institute webinar on Tuesday.

And though numbers of cases have gone up in Maryland, Hogan said that’s due to more testing.

According to the governor, Maryland has been conducting massive amounts of testing — two and a half times more than what was being done just last month.

“I think yesterday, or the day before, we did 29,000 tests and our cases went up, but they went up at a slower rate. When you move from 15,000 tests to 30,000, your numbers should double. They didn’t. They went up at a slower rate. Our number of cases is slowly ratcheting up. But our positivity is not. Our hospitalizations are good. Our ICUs are good. Our death rate is down,” Hogan said.

He said those are the numbers they watch on a daily basis, and they are all trending in the right direction.

Prince George’s County Health Officer Dr. Ernest Carter said in an emailed statement that as a region, there has been an uptick in cases hospitalizations and infection rate. He said that Prince George’s County is “not yet in a position to start rolling back current reopening measures.”

Carter and his staff analyze the the county’s numbers daily and are in constant communication with County Exectuive Angela Alsobrooks.

However, Hogan said, if anything changes and the numbers trend downward, he is willing to act.

Hogan credits the people of the state for much of the decrease in positivity rates, doing their part by social distancing as they have been asked to and wearing masks.

“I think it’s one of the reasons why our numbers are down instead of skyrocketing up like in some of the states where they won’t wear masks,” Hogan said.

And he hopes it continues. Currently, he said, the state has been able to start up 98% of the economy, in a safe and manageable way.

“Overall, that puts us in a better place than most other states with an unemployment rate at 8% in Maryland, while most other states have rates over 20%,” Hogan said.

In Prince George’s County, Alsobrooks said in a statement, “If the time comes for us to make a decision to scale back reopening, we look forward to collaborating with all of our neighboring jurisdictions, but Prince George’s will make decisions based on the data that dictates we take action.”

“I keep saying we want to keep Maryland open for business, and one of the simple things you can do is wear a mask. If you don’t follow the distancing, and you don’t wear your mask, there’s a chance the economy could shut down again and people could lose their jobs, and you’re going to have people getting sick,” Hogan said.

Hogan eased restrictions in June, which allowed restaurants in much of Maryland to begin indoor dining at 50% capacity.

In Maryland, 45% of restaurants have closed, while an estimated 25% might shutter permanently. Their closures led to 150,000 restaurant employees to lose their jobs.

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