Virginia, too, is poised to ease the shutdown that has been in place for nearly seven weeks.
But the hard-hit Northern Virginia suburbs have already been exempted from the first stage of that reopening, and leaders of Maryland’s most populous suburbs say they, too, are not ready for the change.
Hogan’s move from a stay-home order to a “safer-at-home” advisory followed a two-week statewide plateau in hospitalizations for covid-19 patients, as well as increasing pressure on governors nationwide to reignite economies that have been brought to a standstill.
“The fight against this deadly disease is far from over,” Hogan (R) said at a news conference. “But Maryland and our nation can begin to slowly recover.”
Beginning at 5 p.m. Friday, barbershops and hair salons can reopen by appointment only, and manufacturers may resume operations with social distancing measures in place.
Nonessential stores and houses of worship will be allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity and with distancing restrictions — unless their local governments deem it unsafe.
Leaders of Prince George’s and Montgomery County say they plan to stay closed for now. They are among the state’s four largest jurisdictions, which are home to 70 percent of known coronavirus infections. Top officials in the other two, Baltimore City and Baltimore County, said they will decide their plans by Thursday evening.
In the District, Bowser (D) said that the city has not seen the sustained decline in the spread of the novel coronavirus that would have been needed to lift restrictions that were set to expire Saturday.
“The number of new daily cases of COVID-19 diagnoses has yet to fall and the number of daily deaths has failed to decline,” Bowser’s new order says. “It is therefore necessary to maintain our vigilance.”
Effective Saturday, the order requires residents and visitors to wear face coverings when out in public near others, with exceptions for young children and homeless people, people with disabilities and those who are exercising or walking, provided they stay at least six feet away from others.
Essential businesses must provide masks to workers and bar entry to customers without face coverings.
The mayor said she might lift restrictions before June 8 if the spread of the virus slows more quickly than expected — but also could extend them again if needed.
“Hopefully we won’t have to,” Bowser said.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) earlier this week extended Northern Virginia’s shutdown until at least May 28.
Starting Friday, he is expected to allow the rest of the state to resume indoor worship services of more than 10 people, outdoor dining at restaurants, outdoor exercise classes and shopping at nonessential stores — all with strict cleaning and social distancing requirements.
“We’re in a position to enter phase one because we have the hospital capacity, because we have [personal protective equipment], because we have the testing capabilities,” Northam said Wednesday.
The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus sent him a letter Wednesday urging against reopening, which they said could especially hurt African Americans, who have disproportionately succumbed to the virus.
“We will be creating a situation where Black and Brown Virginians outside of Northern Virginia will become guinea pigs for our economy,” the caucus wrote.
In response, a spokeswoman for Northam said he was committed to protecting low-income people and communities of color while reopening.
The covid-19 death toll in the District, Maryland and Virginia passed 3,000 on Wednesday after government health departments reported 103 new fatalities.
The deaths include 14 in the District and three dozen in Virginia, including nine in Fairfax County, seven in Prince William County and three in Arlington. Maryland disclosed 53 fatalities, with Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties reporting 15 and 16 new deaths, respectively.
Known infections in Prince George’s passed 10,000, the most of any jurisdiction in the greater Washington area.
Maryland also reported that the number of covid-19-related deaths among residents and employees at nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and group homes has risen to 995, up from 804 the week before.
According to a Washington Post analysis, half of the 372 fatalities reported by the state since last Wednesday involved residents or staff at long-term care facilities. In Montgomery, the state’s most populous jurisdiction, 294 deaths — or nearly 70 percent of its total — are linked to long-term care facilities. This is significantly higher than neighboring Prince George’s, where about 37 percent of covid-19 deaths are linked to nursing homes.
D.C. health department director LaQuandra Nesbitt said the city is measuring community transmission by focusing on when people started developing symptoms — because test results lag behind when people were infected — and excluding new infections at group facilities such as nursing homes.
The District has seen four days of declining community transmission, she said, but officials want to see that decline continue for two weeks before reopening. The city has met other reopening metrics, such as hospitals running below 80 percent of capacity for seven days in a row and the ability to test high-risk groups.
While Virginia and Maryland have seen conservative-led protests against social distancing measures, deep-blue Washington has not seen a similar backlash. That could change Thursday with a noon protest scheduled at Freedom Plaza outside the District government building. It is being organized by a former Republican D.C. Council candidate and an activist who supports President Trump.
Bowser said she hadn’t heard about the protest but “it better be small.” As of Wednesday evening, a dozen people indicated on Facebook that they would attend.
On a phone-in town hall organized by the mayor’s office, Betsy Fisher, who runs a Dupont Circle clothing shop, said the deaths of 350 in a city of 700,000 should not justify months of business closures.
“It’s an incredibly regressive measure to keep businesses shut down . . . without harming at all people in government who are getting their full salary,” she said. “I am just distraught.”
Bowser said she will ease restrictions for educational retail establishments in the District, such as bookstores and music shops. Starting Friday, such stores can apply for waivers to offer curbside and front-door pickup sales if they provide the city government with detailed data about their hours and whether they have enough protective equipment.
The mayor also directed her administration to consider reopening some dog parks and recreational fields, citing the risk for outdoor crowding when people have limited places to exercise.
D.C. officials say they are pleased that neighboring counties are holding off on reopening, given the ease with which people can cross from city to suburb and back.
“We’re doing what’s right for our communities based on the circumstances that we see on the ground,” Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey said at a Wednesday meeting of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.
He said regional coordination is essential to recovering from the pandemic: “Being blind is going to make our communities worse off.”
Hogan gave local leaders 48 hours to decide whether to lift the restrictions.
Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman (D) said he will review the county’s metrics with health officials before deciding. He said the county has been “holding steady” on hospitalizations, but its supply of protective equipment is “not at the 14-day supply level that we’d like to see.”
Cecil County Executive Alan J. McCarthy (R) said he will create his own plan to gradually reopen, to be announced Friday afternoon. “I will not expose our citizens to unnecessary risks,” he said.
Not all Maryland business owners, even in areas with few covid-19 cases, are clamoring to ease restrictions.
Joan Nubie-Miscall, who owns the Treasure Chest in Oxford, recently ordered new paper shopping bags and moved furniture around to ensure customers can practice social distancing.
But the prospect of opening her doors for the first time since March still makes her uneasy. Her shop is only 850 square feet, and her customers tend to be older.
“I know I cannot let my guard down and think that we are safe here,” she said. “While there aren’t many cases locally, I just do not know where people are coming from, and that is scary.”
Other business owners said they were torn between the need to pay to bills and protect their health.
Ula Somwaru, the owner of Tease Hair Salon in Silver Spring, said she has been taking steps to reopen her shop with temperature checks and staggered appointments. But she respects that Montgomery County officials are not ready.
“They have to have all the medical facts, and if the numbers are going up and it’s not safe, then I would have to listen to them,” said Somwaru, 72. “I am losing money, but health — to me — and safety come first.”
Melissa Hutchison, who owns Gloss Hair Studio in Ellicott City, said her phone was “blowing up” with neighbors desperate for a haircut after Hogan’s announcement. She was planning to start taking appointments over the phone on Friday and lead her staff through a training on sanitizing procedures this weekend. Haircuts, she hoped, would begin on Monday.
Then Howard County announced it would remain shut down, saying its numbers haven’t declined enough and it lacks the resources to deal with a surge.
Even as Hogan announced steps for recovery, he warned residents that the danger from the pandemic has not passed.
“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.”
John D. Harden, Emily Davies, Fredrick Kunkle, Rebecca Tan, Laura Vozzella, Gregory S. Schneider and Julie Zauzmer contributed to this report.