ANNAPOLIS — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said Wednesday the state will ease its coronavirus-related restrictions for restaurants to provide outdoor dining and permit youth sports to begin, citing a decrease in hospitalizations and increase in testing.
Other outdoor activities such as drive-in movie theaters may resume by 5 p.m. Friday, the governor said during a press conference. Outdoor pools may also open at 25 percent capacity.
Hogan attributed the success to the completion of more than 300,000 coronavirus tests, with the state reaching its goal of 10,000 tests per day.
He said the number of patients admitted to intensive care units has remained on a “steady, level plateau for 28 days.”
“While we are moving to safely reopen our economy and put more people back to work, we want to continue strongly stress the need to follow CDC guidelines,” he said. “The fight against this virus is by no means over. We must all continue to remain vigilant, particularly as we begin to come in contact with more people. Lower risk does not mean no risk. Outdoor activities remain safer than indoor activities.”
In terms of outdoor dining for restaurants, patrons at tables must be six feet apart and no more than six people may be seated at a table. Employees’ temperatures must be checked daily and they will be required to wear masks and gloves.
In addition, the governor would like jurisdictions to close streets so restaurants can utilize more space for tables.
Social organizations such as the American Legion and the Elks may also open doors for outdoor dining.
Strict sanitation measures must be in place at those locales and outdoor pools.
Youth sports may resume with “low-contact” practices outdoors. Also, youth day camps may resume outdoor activities with no more than 10 in a group and must engage in daily symptom checks.
As of Wednesday, the state’s number of confirmed cases stood at 48,423.
Hogan stressed that number could increase based on the number of people tested. However, he said the state’s positivity rate is now at about 13 percent, down from nearly 27 percent on April 7.
Hours before Wednesday’s press conference, Hogan announced that two more coronavirus testing sites will open this week in Prince George’s County, a majority-Black jurisdiction which has the most confirmed cases in the state.
Residents can receive free testing at a vehicle emissions station in Clinton starting Thursday. Another one will open Friday at Six Flags America in Upper Marlboro.
Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks plans to provide an update Thursday on the county’s possible plan for a modified reopening June 1. Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, located in the D.C. suburbs, are the only remaining jurisdictions in the state still issuing stay-at-home orders.
Meanwhile, Alsobrooks expressed frustration that state officials failed to inform the county that a state-run testing site in Hyattsville would be closed Wednesday.
“As a reminder, any resident seeking testing can call our County Health Department hotline at 301-883-6627,” she tweeted. “We regret so many of our residents were inconvenienced by this unexpected closing.”
Before Hogan’s announcement in Annapolis, Del. Jazz Lewis (D-District 24) of Glenarden also posted a message on Twitter about how state-managed testing sites are out of supplies.
“The testing site in my district is turning people away,” he wrote. “Something is wrong with this picture.”