Gov. Hogan Closes Maryland Bars, Movies, Gyms and Eat-in Restaurants Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
Gov. Larry Hogan took unprecedented action by closing all bars, eat-in restaurants, movie theatres and gyms starting at 5 p.m. Monday in order to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus and protect public health.
“We should continue to expect the number of cases to dramatically and rapidly rise. We have never faced anything like this before,” Hogan said. “This is going to be worse than almost anyone is currently understanding.”
The Republican’s executive order came less than 24 hours after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that no gatherings with 50 people or more take place for the next eight weeks.
Hogan also said he is prohibiting any social, community, religious, recreational, sports gatherings or events of more than 50 people in close proximity at all locations, establishments and venues.
We should continue to expect the number of cases to dramatically and rapidly rise. We have never faced anything like this before. This is going to be worse than almost anyone is currently understanding.
“These emergency orders carry the full force of the law,” the governor said.
Carry out restaurants and drive-thrus may remain open for customers to pick up meals. Grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, banks and other essential services will remain open.
Hogan said utility companies are prohibited from shutting off residential customers or charging late fees. He is also suspending evictions.
The governor criticized those who ignored CDC warnings to stay home in order to flatten the curve of infection.
“Unfortunately, far too many people have continued to ignore those warnings and are crowding into bars and restaurants, willingly putting the health and safety of others in grave danger,” he said.
The new mandates are the latest efforts from the state to slow the spread of the virus. Hogan declared a state of emergency last week and had already banned large gatherings of 250 people or more. On Sunday, he ordered the shutdown of the state’s casinos, racetracks and off-track betting parlors. Last week, the state announced that Maryland schools would be closed for two weeks starting Monday.
Karen Salmon, state school superintendent, said she is considering keeping Maryland schools closed even longer.
“The reason that I closed schools for two weeks was to give us some time to assess the situation,” she said. “We are actively looking at the modelling that shows where this virus is going and so we'll be making some decisions.”
Salmon also said that thanks to a federal grant that was approved Monday, Maryland students can now receive three meals and a snack per day from closed schools. Meal distribution centers can be found at the State Department of Education’s Maryland Summer Meals site.
The state anticipates serving about 100,000 meals over the next two weeks, Salmon said.
Officials also continued to stress the need for social distancing.
“When we get a vaccine, when we get a treatment, we will push them out,” said Fran Phillips, the deputy secretary of the Department of Health. “But the steps that every Marylander can take today to put that distance between themselves and others is vitally important to slow down the spread of this infection.”
Maryland, along with the rest of the country, is experiencing a shortage of test kits for the virus, Phillips said.
She stressed that people who wish to be tested carefully monitor themselves for a cough, difficulty breathing or a fever over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Together, those symptoms are a sign to call your doctor.
The state has about 9,000 hospital beds right now, Phillips added. She said the goal is to convert another 6,000 beds for potential acute coronavirus patients.
“It's very, very important as we look at the trajectory of this disease that we ramp up our outpatient, we ramp up our telehealth and triage and we ramp up our ability to care for people as they are convalescing if they cannot be at home,” she said.
Phillips said that Maryland is relying on the federal government’s stockpile of certain equipment, including external ventilators. “We’re working to maximize Maryland's allocation,” she said.
The preventative actions “may seem scary,” Hogan said, but “we have never faced anything like this before.”
“We would rather be Denmark than Italy,” he said.
Hogan also said he will tackle any decisions about potentially delaying the upcoming April 28 elections on Tuesday.