Officials in Baltimore County said they plan to ease some restrictions on Friday at 9 a.m.
“I’m confident that Baltimore County is ready to take these next steps, and do so in a safe manner that protects the health of our residents,” County Executive Johnny Olszewski (D) said in a statement.
New figures from the U.S. Labor Department showed that more than 85,000 new unemployment claims were filed last week in the District and its neighboring states. The data marked a decline for the District and Virginia compared with the previous week, but an increase of nearly 25 percent for Maryland.
Amid increased testing, the District and its neighbors recorded 2,674 new coronavirus infections Thursday, the third-highest number since the beginning of the outbreak. Virginia reported a record 1,229 new infections, which is probably linked to the growing number of people being tested; state data shows a daily average of 6,708 tests from May 13 to 19, compared with 4,877 the week before. The state also reported 25 deaths.
The District added five deaths and 237 new cases Thursday, marking the highest single-day increase in new infections since May 8. But city officials say community spread — calculated by the date of symptom onset and excluding cases at confined facilities such as nursing homes — has been declining for 11 days.
LaQuandra Nesbitt, the director of the D.C. health department, said the spike in infections was due to a backlog of tests in one lab.
The city’s task force on reopening recommends the first wave of the District’s return to normalcy include allowing the reopening of barbershops and hair salons by appointment, outdoor restaurant dining, parks, fields, golf courses and tennis courts, worship services with no more than 10 people, and curbside service for nonessential retailers.
Summer camps, pools, gyms or indoor entertainment venues should not be included in the first phase of recovery, the task force said.
“It’s not an on and off switch. We will not be able to go back to life as we enjoyed in February,” said Bowser, who is set to make her final decision Tuesday.
In the immediate term, social distancing measures continue to govern life in the nation’s capital, with the National Park Service announcing Thursday that it would cancel in-person commemorations for Memorial Day.
Instead of the live events, Park Service officials will give remarks and lay wreaths at the sites in prerecorded ceremonies this week. Those recordings will be shown online on Monday.
The park service also said the National Memorial Day Concert will not be held on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol, as per tradition, but will be organized remotely and broadcast on PBS on Sunday from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., and live-streamed on YouTube, Facebook and the PBS website.
Arlington National Cemetery remains closed to the public but will open to family pass-holders over the holiday weekend.
Maryland reported 1,208 new infections and 36 new deaths Thursday, increasing the state’s seven-day average for new infections to 1,090, up from a low of 888 on Sunday.
Prince George’s County has the most infections of any county in the state, with a caseload of 12,830, though officials there note that hospitalization and death rates are starting to decline. This week, hospitals in the county have averaged 184 coronavirus patients, down from 208 last week.
“We are cautiously moving toward a modified phase one reopening by June 1,” Alsobrooks said.
In Baltimore County, where 5,135 residents have been infected, officials initially held back on reopening measures that took effect in other parts of the state last Friday. But Olszewski said Thursday that the county had made sufficient progress in areas such as testing capacity to launch a modified version of Gov. Larry Hogan’s “Phase 1” reopening.
Starting Friday, nonessential retail stores will be able to reopen for “in-store retail” but can have only a maximum of 10 people, including staff. (Hogan’s order allows stores to operate at half-capacity.) The same applies to barbershops and hair salons, which can operate only by appointment.
Teresa Blatchley, who owns Karma Fashion Boutique in Lutherville, was among the many business owners caught off guard by Olszewski’s announcement. In 24 hours, she said, she needed to restore her displays while figuring out how to reopen without the bulk of her staff, who are still stuck at home with young children.
“We thought Baltimore County was going to stick to its word and not have us open for a few more weeks,” she said. “We just cannot open our doors tomorrow morning.”
But Maria Butta, who owns Tranquille Hair and Body in Towson, said she is pleased Olszewski “came to his senses and decided to let us open.” If the existing restrictions had extended for another month, she said, the 10-year-old salon might not have survived.
Officials in Maryland’s other most populous jurisdictions, including Montgomery County and Baltimore City, have not set concrete dates for reopening.
Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young (D) on Thursday urged President Trump to cancel plans to visit the city’s Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine on Memorial Day, adding that it “sends the wrong message” to residents who are still under a “stay-at-home” order.
Young has canceled all public events in Baltimore through Aug. 31, including the city’s annual Fourth of July fireworks.
“I wish that the President as our nation’s leader, would set a positive example and not travel during the holiday weekend,” Young said in a statement, adding that Trump’s visit would cause expenses the city cannot afford. “I would hope that the President would change his mind and decide to remain at home.”
The White House announced Wednesday that Trump and first lady Melania Trump plan to participate in a Memorial Day ceremony at Fort McHenry. Hogan (R) doesn’t plan to attend but said through a spokeswoman that he is “honored that the president and the first lady have chosen to spend Memorial Day at Fort McHenry.”
Dana Hedgpeth, Rachel Chason and Emily Davies contributed to this report.