Gov. Larry Hogan announced in a news conference Thursday that he is lifting COVID-19 restrictions on nursing homes and child care centers as Maryland’s COVID-19 positivity rate continues to drop.
In addition, he said Maryland reported zero coronavirus deaths that day "for the first time in 187 days since March 28."
Hogan said that Maryland nursing homes may now resume indoor visitations. This applies to all nursing homes that are not experiencing a current outbreak and haven’t had new positive cases in the last 14 days.
“In accordance with new federal guidelines, indoor visitation would not be permitted if a local jurisdiction’s positivity rate rises above 10%,” Hogan said. “This new federal policy and our new state efforts allow for more flexibility for compassionate care visits to support residents who need emotional and spiritual support.”
Restrictions placed on child care centers imposed during the height of the pandemic will also be lifted. Maryland Schools Superintendent Dr. Karen Salmon announced that they will be able to return to normal operations.
Since July, centers were allowed no more than 15 individuals per room. Now facilities may accommodate up to 20 three to four year olds, or 30 school age children per room.
“In working with the Maryland Department of Health we have seen very few positive COVID cases in our childcare facilities, likely due to the rigorous health and safety guidance implemented by the childcare community from the beginning of the pandemic,” Salmon said.
Hogan said that Maryland’s health metrics are continually improving. He said the statewide positivity rate is down to 2.88%. This marks a decline of nearly 90% since it peaked at 26.91% in mid-April.
“As a result of our early and aggressive actions and our successful mitigation efforts, Maryland was able to safely enter Stage 3 of our ‘Maryland Strong: Roadmap to Recovery,’ and all businesses in the state of Maryland were able to open,” he said.
The state is also providing $6 million to nursing homes specifically for testing staff for COVID-19. Hogan said that by next week, nearly 300 Maryland nursing homes will be receiving rapid testing supplies.
Salmon said there would be a monetary incentive for childcare programs to reopen.
“Reopened programs will receive a one time grant of $800 for family care providers and $1600 for center based child care providers,” Salmon said. “These grants will be available through October 31 of this year.”
The Maryland State Department of Education is also providing $1,000 in startup grants to eligible new family home care providers in an effort to bolster new small businesses.
“We've heard very clearly from parents and providers who have written and called me that we needed to return to licensed capacity to meet the needs of working families and prevent the closure of childcare centers once it could be done safely,” Salmon said.
The Hogan administration has been pushing Maryland school district leaders to open schools for in-person learning. Salmon said she hopes this will complement efforts to reopen them safely.
The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, which uses a different calculation method, lists Maryland’s positivity rate at 5.2%.