Gov. Larry Hogan once again reaffirmed the state of emergency and catastrophic health emergency Friday, as Maryland and the rest of the U.S. enter the last couple of months of a year marked by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The latest proclamation is the 10th time Hogan has renewed the declaration of its health emergency that was first ordered March 5.
“While Maryland’s positivity and case rates remain lower than most states in America, we are closely monitoring increases in some of our key health metrics, as well as rising numbers in states across the country,” Hogan said in a statement.
On Thursday 962 cases of the virus were reported – the highest since the beginning of August. The seven-day moving average of cases was 773, which has been steadily climbing since Oct. 15.
Across the state, county leaders reported an uptick in cases, which could lead to rollbacks in reopening provisions at a time when many are planning holiday celebrations.
“We are at levels of virus that, if this had been May or June and we are making decisions about opening, we would not open,” Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said earlier this week.
Hardest-hit Prince George’s County also reported an increase in its numbers, with 852 new cases in the county for the week of Oct. 18, the highest weekly mark for the county since August.
“This crisis is far from over, and this virus does not recognize state borders. I want to remind Marylanders that the only way to keep our state open for business is to avoid traveling to hot spots and continue following the public health guidelines,” Hogan said.
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Heading into the Halloween weekend, the state released guidance on how to celebrate the holiday, which includes avoiding direct contact with trick-or-treaters, giving out treats outdoors, setting up a station with individually bagged treats for children, washing hands before handing out treats and making the cloth mask a part of your costume.
Montgomery County said it will release guidance after Halloween with ways people can gather safely for the Thanksgiving holiday.
“We know that people are going to do it. And we are not going to be able to discourage people from seeing their families on Thanksgiving in many cases. So while we’re not recommending it, we are going to recommend some mitigating things that you can do to keep it safer than it would be otherwise,” said Earl Stoddard, director of the Montgomery County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.
Hogan said he joined other governors on a teleconference with members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, including Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Dr. Anthony Fauci and Gen. Gustave F. Perna, of “Operation Warp Speed,” the government’s coronavirus vaccine program.
Hogan’s office announced last week that it had submitted a draft plan to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for how it will inoculate residents once a COVID-19 vaccine is approved.
State Deputy Health Secretary Dr. Jinlene Chan said Maryland will conduct an outreach effort to promote trust in a coronavirus vaccine when one becomes available, The Associated Press reported.
Maryland Matters reported that lawmakers and policy experts have found themselves rushing to find ways to motivate the public to go out and get it.
“Right now, Marylanders are not confident about the COVID-19 vaccine,” Dr. David Marcozzi, of the University of Maryland Medical system, told lawmakers Wednesday.
Six Flags testing site expands hours
The Six Flags America drive-through COVID-19 testing site expands hours starting Monday, Nov. 2.
From then, the site will be open Mondays from 2 to 6 p.m., Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to noon, and Fridays from 8 a.m. to noon.
No appointment is needed at this site, but people can preregister for convenience or to request accommodations. No doctor’s note is needed, and it’s free.
According to the state’s health department, there are more than 225 active testing sites across Maryland. To see all the testing sites, visit COVIDtest.maryland.gov.
Earlier this week, the Maryland State Department of Education’s board voted in support of a statement from state schools Superintendent Karen Salmon that urged districts to bring students back to in-person classrooms.
The state’s school board also agreed to a plan to move up the start of the winter season sports play from February to December.
Citing the “enormous cost” to students of keeping buildings closed, Salmon called on schools to begin transitioning to at least a hybrid teaching model that would see some students return to classrooms.
The earliest students in Prince George’s County Public Schools will be back in the classroom could be February, schools CEO Monica Goldson reiterated in a brief conference call Wednesday night.
With an increase in the positivity rate and new case rate per 100,000, Charles County announced that it is monitoring health data as it makes decisions about resuming in-person instruction.
Charles County is above the state COVID-19 positivity average by .58%, with a daily average of 4.29%.
Charles County Public Schools said seven of its employees have tested positive for COVID-19 this month, but they did not get infected at a school and there hasn’t been community spread at schools. Some students are expected back in classrooms starting Nov. 9.
Montgomery County school leaders said during a board meeting Tuesday that they are looking for “significant decrease in COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents before all students can come back into classrooms,” Bethesda Beat reported.
On Wednesday night, a group of parents whose children are enrolled in special education programs in Montgomery County schools protested outside the school board headquarters, pushing for in-person education for their children.