Gov. Larry Hogan has ordered all Maryland residents to stay home beginning at 8 p.m. Monday. Disobeying the order is a misdemeanor and could mean up to a year in jail, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.
Previously, Hogan closed all non-essential businesses, banned gatherings of more than 10 people and encouraged people to stay home unless they have a specific, essential reason to be out, such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy.
Hogan’s latest order follows reports of people ignoring these instructions.
“This is a deadly public health crisis,” Hogan said. “We are no longer asking or suggesting that Marylanders stay home. We are directing them to do so."
He told Marylanders to reschedule all non-essential appointments, and to avoid taking public transit or traveling outside the state. Anyone who has to travel outside the state needs to quarantine themselves for two weeks when they return.
Residents are not locked in their homes, Hogan said, but they should use common sense to minimize interactions with other people.
“You should be able to get outside for your own physical and mental wellbeing and go for a walk and take your dog for a walk,” Hogan said. “You should not be going out with a crowd of 100 people congregating at a park somewhere.”
Hogan announced the new restrictions together with numbers showing a rapidly growing infection rate. By Monday morning, Maryland had more than 1,400 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and several places had seen outbreaks, including a nursing home in Carroll County.
Hogan said the epidemic poses a particular risk in Maryland because it’s home to many federal agencies, including the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration, which are key to fighting the virus.
“A major outbreak among our critical federal work workforce could be catastrophic, crippling the national response,” he said.
He acknowledged that Monday’s order could result in more businesses closing their doors. Still, he said those businesses that stay open should try to cut down on in-person staff.
To buffer some of the impact, he announced that he is increasing the amount of money in the “Layoff Aversion Fund” he announced a week ago to help keep small businesses from having to cut employees. He said the state Department of Labor has already received more than 1,500 applications for grants from that fund.
“I realize that this is incredibly difficult on everyone in our state, but I want people to know that we have been through difficult challenges before and that we are going to get through this together,” he said.
On the medical front, Hogan announced new testing sites at vehicle emissions inspection stations in Glen Burnie, Waldorf and Bel Air, and at FedEx Field in Landover.
However, the state still has a limited number of testing kits. Fran Phillips, deputy secretary for public health at the state Department of Health, said these testing sites are not meant for everyone.
“This is for at-risk people with symptoms of the disease, who will not be tested in emergency rooms or in crowded physicians offices,” she said. “The point of these test sites is to pull people away from those healthcare facilities to spare the emergency rooms.”
To get tested at one of these sites, residents need an appointment made through a medical provider.
For everyone else, Phillips pressed social distancing.
“When this crisis is over, and one day it will be over, we will look back at this time in our lives as a particularly extraordinary moment,” she said. “When we look back, we have to be able to say that we did everything we could to save lives.”