ANNAPOLIS — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Wednesday he is lifting his stay-at-home order and will allow some businesses to reopen as the state attempts to recover amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Churches, barbershops, salons, manufacturing, pet grooming services, car washes and retail stores will be permitted to reopen at 5 p.m. Friday, with some limitations, as part of the first phase of the state’s recovery plan.
Hogan, who first issued the stay-at-home order on March 30, called the move “a positive step forward” but warned that it doesn’t mean a return to normal life.
“It does not mean that we are safe, or that this crisis is over,” Hogan said. “All Marylanders, particularly those older and more vulnerable populations, are advised to continue staying at home as much as possible. Employers should continue to encourage telework for their employees whenever possible.”
People should still wear masks working in stores and those riding public transportation, he said. Social distancing guidelines should also remain in effect.
As for personal grooming businesses, barbershops and salons can only open at 50 percent capacity and by appointment only.
The 50 percent capacity rate must also be done at churches and houses of worship, but faith leaders are encouraged to hold services outside. Hogan called them “an essential part of the lives of so many people.”
One of the main factors in Hogan’s decision was the number of hospitalizations and admittances to intensive care units and whether those figures were declining or remaining flat.
For instance, the state health department recorded hospitalizations on April 30 at just over 1,700. As of Wednesday, the figure is roughly 1,500.
Hogan said four of the state’s 24 jurisdictions currently account for 70 percent of the state’s confirmed cases.
According to the first-phase plan, it “will empower individual jurisdictions to make decisions regarding the timing of stage-one reopenings.”
Prince George’s and Montgomery counties have the most confirmed cases in the state at 10,459 and 7,283, respectively. Because of those figures, county executives from both jurisdictions said last week they aren’t ready to reopen.
“Prince George’s County will take a measured and smart approach to reopening, as the safety and health of Prince Georgians remains our top priority,” County Executive Angela Alsobrooks tweeted Wednesday.
Prince George’s Council member Deni Taveras (D-District 2) of Adelphi said Hogan’s decision was “political” and that the governor is “catering to his base.”
She said her district, which has the most Latinos in the county, contains the 20783 zip code in the Hyattsville area, which had a Maryland-high 1,242 confirmed cases as of Wednesday, state health department data shows.
“People want to get out the house and drive to the beach or go to the store, but all it takes is one person to get others infected,” Taveras said. “While I can understand the need to open up, we have to do it safely and have to do it carefully.”
The state’s next two jurisdictions with the highest number confirmed cases are Baltimore County and Baltimore City at 4,160 and 3,476, respectively.
Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski and Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. Jack Young released a joint statement after Hogan’s announcement announcing that they will make a decision in the next 24 hours.
“We acknowledge that this will not be welcome news to all of our residents,” the statement read. “Individuals and businesses continue to make real sacrifices, and those sacrifices are preventing the spread of a deadly virus. However, rushing to reopen in our large, densely populated jurisdictions jeopardizes the lives of our neighbors and loved ones.”
Maryland’s neighbors also announced updates on recovery plans Wednesday.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said the state will also reopen some businesses Friday, but the more congested Northern Virginia area will remain under stay-at-home orders until May 29.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the city will extend its stay-at-home order through June 8. As of Wednesday, the District has slightly more than 6,500 confirmed cases.
“We are not there yet, and not quite ready for that phased reopening,” Bowser said. “Based on the data, I can revise this order at any time.”