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Hogan Lifts Business Restrictions, Launches Vaccines For 12 Year Olds

Baltimore County Government
The state's mass vaccination site at the Maryland State Fairgrounds is among those offering vaccines for children age 12 or older.

Gov. Larry Hogan is lifting all pandemic-related capacity restrictions on businesses beginning Saturday. The indoor mask mandate will remain in place, but that, too, might be gone before long.

The changes affect indoor and outdoor entertainment, arts, and sports venues, as well as indoor and outdoor dining.

“Effectively as of Saturday, every business in Maryland will be able to open at 100% with no restrictions,” Hogan said.

Local governments can still impose tighter rules. In Baltimore, for example, large entertainment venues will remain at half-capacity.

Hogan said the Maryland Department of Labor is also reinstating work search requirements for people applying for and receiving unemployment benefits. Those requirements were lifted during the pandemic.

“There's no question there are some people that have made the decision to stay home and to collect unemployment rather than returning to work. We hear that every day from hundreds of people,” Hogan said. “So we think the step we're taking is probably the right one.”

The main pandemic holdover that will remain in place is the indoor mask requirement.

But even that won’t be around for much longer. Hogan said he plans to lift it when 70% of Maryland adults have had at least one dose of a vaccine.

“President Biden set the goal of trying to get things back to normal by the Fourth of July,” Hogan said. “Here in Maryland, our plan is to get everything back to normal by Memorial Day.”

Meanwhile, children as young as 12 can get the Pfizer vaccine starting Thursday at 11 of the state’s 13 mass vaccination sites, as well as at many pharmacies and hospital-affiliated clinics. Available locations are listed at covidvax.maryland.gov.

Vaccinating eligible children is crucial to ending the pandemic, said Jinlene Chan, deputy secretary for public health services at the Maryland Department of Health. As more adults get vaccinated, children and teens make up a greater portion of people getting infected.

“Vaccines can protect teens against infections and potential complications from COVID-19, and importantly, also decreases the chance that they could spread the infection to others,” Chan said.

She said she has talked with her son, who is newly eligible, about getting the vaccine “and what to expect and why it is important for him so that he can get back to some of the activities that he missed out on last year like summer camps and hanging out with friends and other activities.”

The risk to children and younger adults of getting severely ill from COVID-19 is lower than it is for older adults, but there is still some risk, Chan said, adding that the decision to get her son the vaccine isn’t just about her son’s safety.

“For me, it's about protecting my child, but also protecting the people who might be around him — you know, whether it's other adults and other teachers, people who might not be able to get vaccinated, and there are those who can't,” she said.

Hogan urged everyone who has not yet been vaccinated to get the shot. All 13 of the state’s mass vaccination sites accept walk-ups, without appointments.

“The fastest way to get rid of our damn masks and to put this pandemic behind us once and for all is for every single eligible Marylander to get vaccinated as quickly as possible,” he said.

Rachel Baye is a senior reporter and editor in WYPR's newsroom.
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