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Hogan Eases Some COVID-19 Restrictions

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Joel McCord
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Gov. Larry Hogan announced Wednesday that Maryland could move into the final stages of Phase 1of his Covid-19 recovery plan.

Under his new orders, restaurants and social organizations such as American Legions, VFWs and Elks Clubs would be able to open for outdoor dining as of 5 p,m, Friday, provided they follow strict health and safety guidelines.

The same goes for outdoor swimming pools, youth sports activities and day camps.

Hogan said he strongly encouraged local leaders to find innovative ways to support local restaurants.

“We love the idea of closing streets for outside seating in Little Italy and Fells Point in Baltimore City, on West Street and Main Street in Annapolis, on Bethesda row and in other towns across the state,” he said.

He said that would help expand the footprints of the restaurants and allow for safer outdoor dining.

Swimming pools would be allowed to operate at only 25 percent capacity while youth sports programs would be limited to low contact, outdoor practices with small groups.

Day camps would have to operate at limited capacities and not allow out-of-state campers.

Hogan said he took the steps because he saw encouraging signs of progress in the state.

“All of this progress allows us to now safely move forward with the completion of Stage One of the recovery plan.”

He said the state has reached its goal of conducting 10,000 COVID 19 tests a day, and that the rate of positive tests has dropped by more than half since it peaked on April 17. In addition, the number of hospitalizations has dropped by almost a quarter since the end of April.

But not everyone was happy with the governor’s pronouncement. Stuart Katzenberg, of AFSCME Council 3, the state’s largest employee union, issued a statement charging the governor is “taking his cues from those groups demanding to open Maryland versus public health experts.”

He said there still is no universal testing of state employees, nor adequate personal protective equipment for them.

Hogan cited recent polls that found a large majority of Marylanders agree with the way he is handling the crisis.

“We have a plan,” he said, “which was put together with a corona virus recovery team made up of some of the smartest doctors and scientists in the state and America and they believe we’re going about it the right way.”

Yet he cautioned that people must continue to follow Centers for Disease Control guidelines.

“The fight against this virus is by no means over. We must all continue to remain vigilant, particularly as we begin to come into contact with more people,” he said. “Lower risk does not mean no risk. And safer does not mean completely safe.”

And he had harsh words for those whom he says aren’t taking the threat of the virus seriously, particularly the crowds that packed the Ocean City boardwalk over the long Memorial Day weekend.

“I was a little bit shocked to see some of the photographs or the video of people on the boardwalk in Ocean City with some of those crowds, which didn’t appear to be too safe to me,” he said.

The governor said if the numbers continue on a downward trend, Maryland could move into phase two of the recovery plan, allowing more non-essential businesses to open, within the next week or two. But if the hospitalizations tick upward, as they have over the last two days, he’ll have to rethink that.

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