Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced that effective Saturday, all capacity restrictions will be lifted on businesses in the state, with only the indoor mask order remaining for now.
Hogan cited the state’s strong record of vaccination and declining case rate and hospitalizations. He said Maryland is on track to have 70% of all adults vaccinated by Memorial Day.
“We are lifting all restrictions on all outdoor entertainment, art, sports venues — including all ticketed events — as well as indoor venues, conventions and other businesses. All restrictions will also be lifted on indoor and outdoor dining,” Hogan said. “So effectively as of Saturday, every business in Saturday will be able to open at 100% with no restrictions.”
The indoor mask requirement will remain in place, but Hogan said it too will be lifted once 70% of adults in Maryland have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. He told reporters that he believed the mask rule could be removed now, but the state would like to make more progress combatting the pandemic before lifting it.
“President Biden set the goal of trying to get things back to normal by the Fourth of July. Here in Maryland, our plan is to get everything back to normal by Memorial Day,” he said.
With the Pfizer vaccine receiving emergency use authorization for children as young as 12, Hogan said Maryland has prepped 11 of its mass vaccination sites to administer doses to children.
Dr. Jinlene Chan from the Maryland Department of Health said the state would be working with pharmacies and smaller practices to allocate them doses to be given to children, as many families feel more comfortable getting medication from their primary care physicians.
“We know that this is important because families have said time and again that they would want to get vaccines at their pediatricians offices,” Chan said.
Minors will need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian to receive a vaccine.
Maryland’s vaccination webpage has been updated with a function that allows parents to check which sites are distributing the Pfizer vaccine.
The governor also said he has directed the Maryland Department of Labor to work with the federal government to reinstate the work-search requirements for unemployment coverage.
Counties react to Hogan’s order
Following the announcement, many counties confirmed to WTOP that they plan to align with Hogan’s timeline and lifting of restrictions on Saturday, including Howard and Carroll counties.
Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman said it will follow the state’s removal of restrictions on event venues on indoor and outdoor event venues and on indoor and outdoor dining at bars and restaurants starting Saturday.
“We believe that our low case rates will continue through the summer, but the only effective way to prevent a fall surge in cases will be a summer surge in vaccinations,” Pittman said in a statement.
In Prince George’s County, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said its capacity restrictions on some businesses will be lifted starting on Monday at 5:01 p.m. Her announcement comes after Alsobrooks told residents at a virtual town hall Tuesday that an announcement was imminent.
“Due to a continued decline in key COVID-19 metrics and increasing vaccination rates, we are now at a point where we can begin to safely to lift capacity restrictions for many of our businesses,” Alsobrooks said in a statement.
Businesses that will be able to operate at full capacity with social distancing and with masks rules in place include amusement parks, bingo halls, bowling alleys, casinos, gyms and fitness centers, indoor and outdoor pools, places of worship, personal service establishments, restaurants (both indoor and outdoor dining), retail and senior centers.
Other business types and activities will still have some restrictions with social distancing required. Banquet halls, concert venues, outdoor recreational activities, sporting events and social clubs must remain at 50% capacity. Indoor gatherings remain limited to 20 people for all locations while outdoor gathering are capped at 50 people.
Baltimore City will modify their restrictions starting Monday at 6 a.m., Mayor Brandon Scott said in a news release. The city will join the state’s guidelines on most capacity restrictions on most businesses. Convention and banquet facilities as well as indoor and outdoor venues will remain at 50% occupancy.
“With restrictions eased and summer approaching, we must continue to take COVID-19 seriously,” Scott said. “Wear your masks when indoors, avoid large gatherings and contact with unvaccinated persons, and get vaccinated.”
Some jurisdiction have yet to response to Maryland’s new order. Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner will address Hogan’s order in her public information briefing at 11 a.m. Thursday.
Montgomery County has yet to response to the new guidance. Prior to Hogan’s press conference, Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles said in a virtual news briefing that the county will enter Phase 3 of reopening once 50% of residents are fully vaccinated – meaning two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
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