Local leaders remain empowered to decide whether to ease the restrictions.
Leaders in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties separately announced Thursday that they would begin the first, incremental steps toward lifting restrictions June 1, implementing policies that had been in place elsewhere for two weeks already. Each also adopted some elements of the latest reopening stage, with Prince George’s permitting outside dining and Montgomery allowing youth sports and camps.
Officials in many other populous localities also initially held off on joining what Hogan dubbed a partial Phase 1 of his reopening plan. Some have implemented modified versions of it, while others are closely watching data to determine when it might be safe to ease restrictions. Roughly 60 percent of the state’s population lives in the areas that initially delayed or modified Hogan’s phase one reopening.
Hogan has made clear that moving from a “stay-home” order to a “safer-at-home” advisory does not mean business as usual. There are still strict limits on crowd sizes and extensive social distancing requirements, including requiring masks in indoor spaces.
“If you can stay home, you should continue to do so as much as you can,” he said.
Dining inside restaurants and services such as nail salons, among other things, will not be available until later. Here are answers to questions about reopening and the metrics that will determine when that happens.
New daily deaths per 100,000 residents
What am I able to do in Phase 1 of reopening?
More than before. But, honestly, not much.
For now, hair cuts, religious services, limited retail and outdoor dining are the most visible changes — and they’re only allowed where local governments have permitted them to take place.
Hogan has a detailed “Roadmap to Recovery” that splits up business practices and social activities into low- , medium- and high-risk categories. He divided the low-risk category into two phases, and the second half takes effect at 5 p.m. May 29.
The partial, first-phase reopening he announced May 13 allowed clothing and shoe stores, pet groomers, animal adoption shelters, carwashes, art galleries and bookstores to relaunch their businesses. But they must remain at 50 percent capacity or less, employees must wear masks, and other social distancing restrictions must be observed. Some local governments have imposed stricter rules about capacity or barred all but curbside service.
Everywhere besides houses of worship must abide by the ban on gatherings of 10 or more people. Under Hogan’s plan, places of worship may exceed that threshold at indoor services but may not fill up by more than 50 percent of the building’s capacity. Some local governments have kept the 10-person rule in place for churches, too.
Day cares may reopen only to serve children of essential employees and workers of newly reopened businesses.
Manufacturers may also reopen, but Hogan said companies should consider spreading workers out over multiple shifts and ensure that safety precautions are in place.
Hogan announced the second part of the first phase Wednesday, lifting more restrictions. Restaurants can resume outdoor dining, provided they keep tables six feet apart, do not seat more than six people to a table, and sanitize surfaces between guests. Low-contact sports that emphasize individual skill development and day camps for kids can restart, but groups must be limited to 10 or fewer. At day camps, everyone must wear masks. Outdoor pools can reopen as long as they limit their capacity to 25 percent.
If the virus starts to spread within the community or residents ignore social distancing conventions, Hogan plans to reverse the reopening actions. “If everybody goes crazy and does things that are unsafe, we’re going to balloon back up and slow down the process,” he said. “If everybody responds responsibly, we’ll be able to move forward quicker.”
Residents can expect to wear masks and stay at least six feet apart in public for months to come.
State beaches, state parks and golf courses are open statewide, and fishing, boating, hunting and camping are allowed. Elective surgeries and dentist appointments are also permitted, based on the discretion of medical providers.
Community beaches and those run by county officials are only open in areas where local officials deem it safe.
How is Hogan deciding?
Like many governors across the country, Hogan has a panel of epidemiologists and other experts advising him. His plan is based on advice from Johns Hopkins University and the National Governors Association, which he chairs, as well as guidance from the White House that trends should hold for 14 days before major changes are made.
The governor is considering a range of pandemic data, but the key things he’s watching are the number of occupied beds in intensive care units and the number of people hospitalized with covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. These measurements give the most accurate picture of how the virus is moving through Maryland and whether the state has the resources to treat people who get sick.
As of Thursday, 1,334 people were hospitalized, a small flattening of a trend that followed more than two weeks of declines. Of those hospitalized, 511 were in intensive care. Over the past week, ICU bed use has ranged from a high of 539 on May 20 to a low of 503 on Sunday.
How many people are still getting sick?
Maryland’s caseload count keeps rising as expanded testing starts to detect more coronavirus cases. Over the past week, the daily addition of new cases jumped significantly.
As of Thursday, 49,709 people had been confirmed sick, an increase of nearly 14,900 cases in the two weeks since Hogan announced that the state was ready to start reopening. An additional 619 deaths were recorded since then, bringing the number of confirmed and probable covid-19 fatalities to 2,428 as of Thursday.
Testing is still limited, however. Maryland just Wednesday reached Hogan’s goal, set more than a month ago, to test 10,000 people in a single day.
Will the state reopen all at once?
Hogan’s plan grants 180 local leaders discretion on whether individual jurisdictions and regions should keep stay-at-home orders in place longer than his statewide directive allows. County health officials have the authority to shut down individual businesses or activities, too.
The leader of hard-hit Prince George’s County said that her county is not ready to reopen in May, but will partially open June 1 when a local stay-at-home order will be lifted. County Executive Angela Alsobrooks (D) said Thursday that Prince George’s has hit key milestones, including more space in hospitals, a lower rate of new infections and deaths, as well as ramped up testing and enough trained contact tracers to identify and isolate new patients. The reopening allows for haircuts and outdoor dining under the same strict social distancing policies used statewide.
The leader of neighboring Montgomery County said Thursday that the more stringent restrictions in his county would lift at 6 a.m. Monday. In addition, County Executive Marc Elrich (D) said retail sales can begin curbside service, restaurants can provide outdoor dining and day cares can reopen, all with the same restrictions statewide. Baltimore City also remains shut down indefinitely, with the mayor canceling all public events this summer but allowing some curbside retail service and outdoor dining. Charles County expects to stay closed until Friday.
Elsewhere, Hogan’s decision to grant deference to counties has created a patchwork of different policies across the state. Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore have decided to reopen as much as allowed. So has most of Southern Maryland and Harford, Cecil and Carroll counties. All those areas follow Hogan’s order that permits certain retail stores, churches and manufacturing companies and hair salons to operate under social distancing rules.
Six central Maryland counties have taken a modified approach that lifts the stay-at-home order and adopts some elements of the reopening plan but not others.
Baltimore County permits all elements of the plan, except houses of worship must also limit gatherings to 10 people or fewer. Anne Arundel and Howard counties also limit religious gatherings to 10 or fewer, plus limiting most retail to curbside and delivery only. Both also prevent barbershops and hair salons from having more than one customer at a time. In Frederick, those businesses must stay shut down until at least May 29, and worship services may operate at 50 percent capacity but must do temperature checks.
When can I go back to working in an office?
Hogan said people and employers with the ability to telework should continue doing so as long as possible.
The governor often states that his plan has no timeline and that moving from one phase to another will depend on how the virus is moving through the state.
“The purpose of a road map is to lay out paths to a destination,” his plan says. “A road map is not a calendar, or a set of fixed dates, but it is an important guide to show the intended path forward to recovery.”
Can my place of worship reopen?
It depends on where you live. Houses of worship were able to resume services when Phase 1 took effect. But they must restrict attendance to half their legal capacity, and Hogan urged churches and other religious institutions to hold worship outdoors if possible.
Religious gatherings are the only exemption to the ban on gatherings of more than 10 people. However, several central Maryland counties have kept that ban in place.
What about restaurants?
Restaurants in parts of the state adopting Hogan’s Phase 1 reopening can resume outdoor dining.
Maryland considers indoor dining at restaurants among the medium-risk activities that could be allowed during what Hogan calls Phase 2, grouped with much of what used to be the normal day-to-day: social gatherings of more than 10 people, day-care centers, indoor church services, bar service with social distancing restrictions, expanded transit schedules and indoor gyms.
This stage is expected to endure much, much longer than the initial reopening phase and last until a vaccine is widely available.
What about going to a baseball game? Or school?
Baseball games, concerts, big church gatherings and pre-pandemic restaurant service have been deemed high-risk and reserved for the last stage — Phase 3 — in Hogan’s reopening plan. Maryland State Schools Superintendent Karen B. Salmon said May 6 that in-person, daily school attendance also would not happen until Phase 3.
“There is no realistic timeline yet from any of the scientific experts for achieving this level, as this requires either a widely available and FDA-approved vaccine or safe and effective therapeutics that can rescue patients with significant disease,” Hogan’s plan says.
Does Maryland have enough hospital beds?
Maryland has increased its hospital bed capacity by 6,700 beds. State health officials say they have enough hospital beds to handle new admissions through mid-June, with 5,017 beds open.
Are we getting more personal protective equipment?
Hogan has complained about a shortage of respirator masks and other protective gear that would help stop infections among health-care workers, emergency workers and police who are in daily contact with covid-19 patients. Last month, the region got a fraction of what it asked for from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s national stockpile.
Hogan has launched a multiagency task force to boost the state’s supply of equipment. On May 5, he announced that the state had acquired 600,000 N95 masks, 47,000 gallons of hand sanitizer, 3.5 million gowns and 5,000 infrared thermometers since March. But he did not say how much of that equipment had been used and how much remained on hand. Nor did he say how close Maryland was to reaching its goals.