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Hogan Lifts Stay-At-Home Order, But Baltimore Leaders Say Not Yet

Rachel Baye

Gov. Larry Hogan’s stay-at-home order will lift Friday at 5 p.m., allowing some businesses to open. But many restrictions will remain in place, and the rules will vary county by county. 

On Wednesday, the governor said he is replacing his stay-at-home order with a “safer-at-home advisory.” What’s the difference?

Now, Marylanders are required to stay at home unless they are doing something considered essential, such as going to the grocery store, walking their dog or going outside for exercise. Violating the order is a misdemeanor. Beginning Friday evening, residents will still be strongly encouraged to stay home as much as possible, but they will no longer be breaking the law if they leave.

What will be allowed to reopen?

Retail stores will be allowed to open, but they have to limit the number of people inside to half of their maximum occupancy.

Hair salons and barber shops can open by appointment only.

Manufacturing facilities can resume operations.

Churches and other religious institutions can resume services at 50% capacity, but officials encourage outdoor services whenever possible.

Hogan also mentioned car washes, art galleries and pet groomers.

But other places — including gyms, theaters, malls, bowling alleys, tattoo and massage parlors, nail salons, and amusement parks — need to stay closed. Restaurants can still only be open for carry-out.

The state had more than 700 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 each of the last two days. Is it safe to start opening back up now?

Some elected officials and medical experts have questioned whether it’s too soon, but Hogan said his decision is based on the number of people hospitalized and the number of people in intensive care units. Both numbers are down over a 14-day period.

Hogan also emphasized that this is just the first step of his three-step recovery plan. It’s not a return to the way things were before March. Everyone still needs to wear masks in public, distance themselves from others, and avoid groups greater than 10 people. People who can should continue to work from home.

Hogan said the risk is far from gone.

“Unfortunately, the painful truth is that this virus will continue to be with us," he said, "and potential outbreaks will continue to remain a deadly threat until a vaccine is widely available.” 

Hogan also said local officials will have the flexibility to decide when it will be safe to begin reopening businesses. Have leaders in the Baltimore area indicated next steps here?

Baltimore City Mayor Jack Young and Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski issued a joint statement saying they will determine next steps over the next day.

The governor has laid out four prerequisites for reopening:  sufficient personal protective equipment, widely available testing, increased hospital capacity, and robust contact tracing to determine who may have been in contact with someone who has the virus. Olszewski and Young said their jurisdictions don’t have enough of any of these, except for hospital beds.

The leaders of Howard, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties have also said they are not ready to reopen, and Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman said he is consulting with the county health officer before making any decisions.

But other counties, including Harford County, plan to move ahead with reopening.

If this is the first step in the recovery plan, when can we expect the second step?

Hogan said, to some extent, that’s up to Marylanders.

“I'm anxious to move into phase two and get the rest of the business open, but a lot of it depends on how everyone treats this first phase," he said. "If everybody goes crazy and does things that are unsafe, we're gonna balloon back up and slow down the process. If everybody responds responsibly, we'll be able to move forward, you know, quicker.”

Hogan’s published recovery plan warns that unexpected increases in hospitalizations or significant outbreaks could slow or even reverse the reopening.

Rachel Baye is a senior reporter and editor in WYPR's newsroom.
WYPR's Morning Edition news anchor Ashley Sterner serves up the latest Maryland news and weather every weekday morning, delightfully interspersed with the occasional snarky comment.
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