Maryland renews state travel advisory amid coronavirus case surge

Maryland is renewing its travel advisory amid a marked increased in COVID-19 cases, Gov. Larry Hogan said during a news briefing Thursday evening.

Residents are being asked to avoid travel to and from states with a 10% positivity rate or higher. If they do travel to or from states above that threshold, Hogan said they must be tested and self-quarantine before returning.

The renewal of the travel advisory comes as D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser issued a new order that requires those traveling to the District to be tested 72 hours before entering the city limits.

The growing amount of cases in Maryland puts it in the “red zone” set by the federal government despite the state’s positivity rate, 4.21%, being better than 42 other U.S. states. As of Thursday, Maryland has a total of 149,964 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 4,182 deaths.

Hogan said he understands that some will feel the urge to travel to visit family as the holiday season begins. With coronavirus cases going up throughout the country, the governor said it is not time for residents to “become complacent.”

“We shouldn’t lose sight on the obligation that we have to protect the health of the most vulnerable among us,” Hogan said. “We want all Marylanders to enjoy the holiday season with their love ones, but we want you to do so as safely as possible.”

The governor also urged residents to continue wearing face masks as the statewide masking order stays in place. Face masks are required in all public spaces and in all businesses.

Wearing masks is the best strategy to fight the virus, Hogan said, as it save lives and keeps the state open for business. “Just wear the damn masks,” he said.

Cases are trending upwards, with seven jurisdictions — Allegany, Dorchester, Garrett, Harford, Prince George’s, Queen Anne’s and Somerset — over 5% in their positivity rates.

Family gatherings and house parties are believed to be the top two reasons for spread, according to the state’s contact tracers.

With the U.S. reaching more than 100,000 new cases in a single day, Hogan said it’s important for residents to stay vigilant and continue following basic protocols. Employees were advised to telework when possible, to continue practice social distancing and to wash their hands frequently.

“We are in the midst of a major surge,” Hogan said.

There are concerns, Hogan said, of the lack of compliance by certain people following the mask order. Local agencies, such as liquor boards and law enforcement, will be empowered by the state to ensure that all public health regulations are being followed.

Counties with high positivity and case rates will have the governor’s “full support” to implement more restrictive policies to contain the spread of the virus.

Elected school board officials will also receive support to make the best decision for their jurisdiction, including limiting in-person learning, Hogan said. When asked about his push to have students return to the classroom in physical buildings, the governor pushed back, saying the school systems make the last decision.

“Nobody was really pushing to open the schools with people,” Hogan said. “But there are special populations that just can’t do the distance learning, and we were only trying to get the kids that needed it the most back into the schools.”

Eight months after coronavirus restrictions were first implemented, Maryland is in a good place to combat the surge of coronavirus cases, Hogan said. State officials amassed a stockpile of personal protective equipment and tests, while growing the amount of hospital beds.

Hogan credits residents taking measures issued in the spring seriously. Now, Marylanders are being asked to be vigilant again in order to combat a second wave from taking place.

“We are going to continue to attack this virus with every tool in our disposal,” Hogan said. “The most effective tool we have is every single one of you.”

More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Jose Umana

José Umaña is a digital editor for WTOP. He’s been working as a journalist for almost a decade, covering local news, education and sports. His work has appeared in The Prince George’s Sentinel, The Montgomery Sentinel, Orlando Sentinel, PressBox and The Diamondback.

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