With more year-end gatherings coming up, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is hoping to curb travel and urge residents to keep celebrations muted.
“Today, the Maryland Department of Health is issuing a public health advisory, which lowers the gathering limit from 25 to 10,” Hogan announced at a Thursday briefing. “They are also advising Marylanders against all nonessential activities and holiday gatherings with people outside of your immediate household.”
Hogan said he is also issuing an emergency order that requires limiting travel to essential matters only. Marylanders who travel outside the state, or travelers who come to Maryland, will be required to get a negative COVID-19 test result, or to self-quarantine for 10 days.
“With testing so widely available to anyone throughout Maryland, this is easier than ever before,” Hogan said.
Those who travel regularly between Maryland and Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania or D.C. will not be affected, according to Hogan. Read the full order online.
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The tighter limits were announced as Hogan touted the state’s strong health metrics compared with other states in the U.S.
Maryland has seen over 600 deaths attributable to COVID-19 in the last month, and a statewide seven-day average of 2,590 cases per day. Around 1,700 Marylanders are currently hospitalized with symptoms of COVID-19.
“After doing so well for so long, we simply cannot afford to let our guard down over the holidays during this very critical time,” Hogan said. “So, our message today is simple: You are safer at home for the holidays.”
Starting Monday, Maryland state workers are being shifted to mandatory telework, and Hogan also urged all businesses to shift to telework wherever possible.
“Making difficult sacrifices during these next few weeks will absolutely help to keep your family, loved ones and your fellow Marylanders safe,” Hogan said. “It will help our hospitals keep up with the demand and it will save lives.”
The governor also announced a new $180 million relief package to help businesses and people affected by the pandemic. In addition to the new relief package, Hogan said he’ll propose another larger one when the legislature returns to work next month for the annual legislative session.
Taking a moment to reassure kids who may be concerned that the COVID-19 pandemic could affect their Christmas, Hogan said Santa Claus was exempt from the travel restrictions.
“I have issued a very special emergency order, which exempts the one, true Santa Claus, who resides at the North Pole, all nonhuman elves affiliated with Santa, and the reindeer necessary for the propulsion of Santa’s sleigh from any and all travel, testing and parking requirements,” Hogan said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.