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Restaurants, Gyms, Malls And Casinos Allowed To Reopen

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Rachel Baye / WYPR
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More businesses can open and more activities will be allowed to resume, as Gov. Larry Hogan moves the state further into his recovery plan.

 

Beginning this Friday at 5 p.m., indoor dining will be allowed at restaurants. The following Friday, June 19, gyms, dance studios, malls, arcades, bowling alleys, casinos and social clubs are among the types of business that will be allowed to open.

 

At a press conference Wednesday evening, Hogan said the decision to reopen these businesses is about balancing two competing interests.

 

“While we are continuing to battle this deadly virus, we're also fighting to protect and improve the health of those small businesses that have been suffering and the thousands of Marylanders who have not been working and are struggling to make ends meet,” he said.

 

Hogan said the health metrics state officials have been watching have been trending in the right direction. Hospitalizations and the state’s positivity rate — the percentage of COVID-19 tests that are positive — are both on the decline.

 

State schools superintendent Karen Salmon also announced that restrictions on the use of school buildings are being lifted. Schools will be allowed to open for summer school with up to 15 people in a room at a time. 

 

Salmon advised local school systems to prioritize students who struggle the most with distance learning.

 

“This likely includes our younger children, students who are the farthest behind academically, students who lack the capacity to work independently, and students without the proper resources to participate effectively in distance learning,” Salmon said.

 

High school sports may also resume, and child care providers are allowed to open with up to 15 children in a room.

 

But Fran Phillips, the state’s deputy health secretary for public health services, repeated her now-frequent warnings that the coronavirus is still a threat, especially given that there is neither a vaccine nor an effective treatment.

 

“We're asking Marylanders to, again, continue to use common sense and use the best defense that we have against COVID-19, and that's not to get infected in the first place,” Phillips said.

 

She advised residents to wash their hands frequently, wear a mask in public, stay six feet or more away from other people, limit time in confined public spaces, and don’t leave home if they don’t have to.

 

“Nothing is zero risk,” Phillips said. “Just because it's open doesn't mean that you have to participate.”

 

This stage of the recovery process is about giving people choices, Hogan said. He encouraged residents to make the choices that feel safest to them.

 

“From my personal standpoint, I am over 60. I'm a cancer survivor. So I check a few boxes that are in a vulnerable population,” Hogan said. “I would not feel comfortable dining inside, and if I were going to a restaurant, I would prefer to sit outside, which is much safer.”

 

Local officials are allowed to keep tighter restrictions in place. However, Hogan criticized Baltimore Mayor Jack Young for not allowing stores to open, as other jurisdictions have done, while at the same time allowing protests for racial equality.

 

“It's absolutely absurd that there are, you know, thousands of people gathering in the streets and yet a small business in Baltimore can’t open their doors, and I think Jack Young should let those small retail shops open,” Hogan said. “They should have been open a long time ago.”

 

A spokesman for Jack Young did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

 

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball said the county will align with the governor’s plans. 

 

A spokesman for Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski said the county executive was given no advance warning of Hogan’s announcement, so he is evaluating next steps. However, last week Olszewski said he planned to align with the governor’s reopening plans going forward, to avoid the confusion generated by a “patchwork” of rules across the state.

 

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