But Hogan did not back away from masks entirely, noting that businesses and some local jurisdictions could impose their own rules. He said schools and other places should “follow the science” — which generally recommends masks in school settings and for unvaccinated people indoors and in proximity outdoors.
“We have finally reached the light at the end of that long tunnel,” Hogan said as he thanked health-care workers for their efforts and remembered the more than 9,000 Maryland residents who have died since the state’s first confirmed case of the coronavirus in March of last year. “There were days when I wasn’t sure we would ever get here.”
Maryland’s moratorium on evictions related to the pandemic and flexibility on driver’s license renewals are among a small number of policies that will remain in place until Aug. 15. “It is not mission accomplished; the battle is not over,” Hogan said. “But it is a very hopeful point.”
The governor continued to urge people who have not been vaccinated to do so. He also warned them that lifting the state of emergency does not mean that “this virus and the variants no longer poses any threat. If you have been vaccinated, you are safe. But those who have not gotten vaccinated will continue to be at risk.”
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has already said he will allow his state’s emergency declaration to expire at the end of June, although the eviction moratorium and some other protections will remain in place.
The decision from Hogan comes as Maryland records some of its best metrics to date. The state is reporting a seven-day positivity rate of 0.82 percent, a record low and down from 9 percent in January. Hospitalizations and deaths have fallen to or near their lowest points since the beginning of the pandemic.
Hogan credited Maryland residents “for taking [the virus] a lot more seriously than a lot of folks,” allowing the state to hit the 70 percent vaccination threshold for adults by Memorial Day. He said clinics are still being offered to increase the number of vaccinated residents.
Jinlene Chan, the deputy secretary of health, said all of the vaccination infrastructure the state has built up with pharmacies and local providers will be utilized to deliver coronavirus booster shots and flu vaccinations in coming months.
Policies allowing the early release of inmates and alternative marriage procedures will end when the state of emergency is lifted on July 1. That date also will mark the beginning of a “45-day grace period,” in which some pandemic-era changes will remain in place, Hogan said, including the halt on evictions and extended time to renew driver’s licenses.
Health officials will also use that period to transition from emergency operations.
Hogan said parents can continue to have their children wear masks if they choose to, but he added that he supports lifting the statewide mask mandate at schools — where many children are too young to be vaccinated.
“I would hope they would follow science,” Hogan said of school districts, “and follow the direction of the state and state agencies that have looked at this pretty carefully.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that unvaccinated individuals wear masks, especially indoors around others who are not vaccinated. The Maryland Department of Health echoes that recommendation, but on Tuesday, it issued a directive that lifts the mask mandate as of July 1.
Hogan also said that while he supported the decision by hospitals in Maryland to require their employees to be vaccinated, he does not plan to make a similar requirement of state employees. “Obviously, it’s important for health-care workers in a hospital setting,” he said. “But we’re not going to have any mandates on vaccines.”
Some elected leaders around the country, including Democrats such as D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) and California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), have said they want to continue their states of emergency because it allows wider latitude to use federal funding to pay pandemic-related costs and take other actions. They also note that a significant amount of pandemic-related aid has not yet been distributed to those who need it.
Hogan said lifting the state of emergency will not make it harder for Maryland to access federal funds.
As of early June, D.C. and its surrounding suburbs had at least $300 million in rental relief that had not been distributed, a Washington Post analysis found. Five jurisdictions, including Montgomery County and Fairfax County, had not given out any federal dollars to tenants.
Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich (D) said Tuesday that it was too early to lift certain protections tied to the emergency declaration, such as the moratorium on evictions.
He said the Montgomery County Council, sitting as the board of health, will have to decide next Tuesday whether to retain mask requirements in certain settings. Elrich said he thinks the county will “more or less” align itself with the state, given its high vaccination rate. As of Tuesday, 65 percent of Montgomery residents had gotten at least one dose of a vaccine.
Anthony McAuliffe, a spokesman for Prince George’s County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks (D), did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Elrich said the 45-day grace period before restarting the evictions process does not provide enough time for tenants to recover.
“It’s a big mistake,” he said in an interview, adding that while most businesses in the county have reopened, many are still not yet operating at full capacity. “We still have a disproportionate number of unemployed people, and they’re unemployed through no fault of their own.”
Rebecca Tan contributed to this report.