As the coronavirus pandemic continues, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announces the state would move forward with stage two of reopening on Friday.
“Moving into stage two does not mean that this crisis is behind us, or that we can afford to stop being vigilant and cautious,” Hogan said at a press conference in Annapolis on Wednesday. This is apart of Governor Hogan’s Maryland Strong: Roadmap to Recovery plan to get residents back to their normal lives safely.
Effective June 5th at 5 p.m., the order requiring the closure of non-essential businesses will be lifted. This includes manufacturing, construction, large and small retail shops, specialty vendors, wholesalers, warehouses, and offices. Nail and tanning salons are also included but at 50% capacity, and only by appointment.
Starting on June 8th, the state government will return to regular business hours. The MVA and other customer-facing agencies will open select branches, plexiglass dividers, and face coverings will be used.
According to Hogan, Maryland’s COVID-19 positivity rate has dropped to 9.5%, a nearly 65% decrease since the state’s peak in April. Prince George’s County and Montgomery County with the highest cases still have a positivity rate above the state level, but they have seen a drastic drop from 41.6% to 14.1% for Prince George’s and 32.64% to 12.3% for Montgomery.
Both counties entered stage one on Monday and have announced they will hold off on moving into phase 2. Currently, Prince George’s County has 15,940 cases and 556 deaths, Montgomery County comes right behind them with 12,226 cases but with 596 deaths. This adds to Maryland’s 55,858 confirmed cases, and 2,546 confirmed deaths.
“While we’re excited to get much of our economy restarted, I want to be very clear just because Marylanders can return to the office doesn’t mean that they should, and employees who can telework should continue teleworking whenever possible, and safety must remain a top priority for every single business in our state,” said the governor.
Governor Hogan is encouraging businesses to implement workplace safety procedures such as wearing masks, conducting daily screenings like temperature checks, re-evaluating employee schedules, and teleworking.
In the past days, many residents have been protesting in large groups against police brutality and the injustices of African Americans in the U.S. after the death of George Floyd, Breona Taylor, and others. Although Hogan is encouraging people to fight for their rights, he is also concerned about protestors not practicing social distance.
“I am concerned that so many people are gathered so closely together, and we have free coronavirus testing widely available in every jurisdiction. I would encourage people that if you were near a whole lot of people that you should take advantage of that,” said Hogan.
Hogan stated the next steps are for a “graduate return to more normal transit schedules” and safely expanding more childcare centers, amusement parks, sporting, and fitness activities as parents return to their jobs.