Leaders in the Democratic-controlled Maryland House of Delegates sent a letter to Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on Friday asking him to renew the “Catastrophic Public Health Emergency,” citing rising coronavirus cases and growing concern around the delta variant.
Hogan has said he does not plan to reissue any kind of restrictions, noting that the state is prepared and equipped to handle a resurgence — something Hogan’s spokesman, Michael Ricci, reiterated Friday.
“Maryland is much better prepared to withstand the Delta variant surge, our hospitals remain well within their capacities, and our health metrics are among the lowest in the country,” Ricci wrote in an email. “We remain very concerned about the rise in infections among the unvaccinated, and continue to work to get as many Marylanders as vaccinated as possible.”
Hogan ended most of the state of emergency July 1, meaning many emergency mandates and restrictions put in place over the past 16 months were terminated. But a small number of policies, like Maryland’s moratorium on evictions related to the pandemic and flexibility on driver’s license renewals, are scheduled to remain in place until Sunday.
The request from lawmakers comes as the region experiences a surge of coronavirus cases. The state reported 1,047 cases on Thursday, the first time it reported more than 1,000 cases since April.
On Friday, Maryland saw a 37 percent increase in cases in the past week and cases in Virginia increased 28 percent.
In D.C., where cases rose 55 percent in the past week, Patrick Ashley, the head of emergency response for the city’s health department, said on a call with D.C. Council members on Friday morning that the city’s daily case rate is trending “pretty much vertically” and that officials had no immediate plans to retract its recently imposed mask mandate, nor impose further restrictions.
“We’re starting to see other indicators — our lagging indicator of hospitalizations, ICU utilization, ventilators — rise as well, as we see more cases,” he said. “ . . . We’re fortunate we’re not [seeing] some of the things we’re seeing around the country in our system here, where we’re running out of hospital capacity.”
As cases continue to surge in the District, officials also said they are looking to increase the number of public sites where residents can get tested or pick up and drop off self-testing kits.
“We did some recent analysis of the Test Yourself program, specifically where there are holes in the city,” Ashley said. “In the next few weeks, we have plans to add some capacity to make sure everyone in the city is within a 20-minute walk of a testing location.”
D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) announced Tuesday that all city employees would be required to get vaccinated or opt for weekly testing. Both Hogan and Northam announced similar requirements last week for some state employees. Maryland and Virginia’s vaccination requirements go into effect Sept. 1 and D.C.’s Sept. 19.