ANNAPOLIS — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Wednesday that no one will be required to wear a mask indoors at public locations once the state reaches a threshold of 70% of it adults receiving at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine.
All restrictions on businesses such as art studios, conventioncenters, retail shops and restaurants will be lifted Saturday to allow 100% capacity.
Two major sports venues — FedEx Field in Landover, home of the Washington Football Team, and M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, home of the Baltimore Ravens — can have full capacity of fans when NFL’s 2021 season starts in September.
“President Biden set the goal of trying to get things back to normal by the Fourth of July. Here in Maryland, our plan is to get everything back to normal by Memorial Day,” Hogan said outside the governor’s mansion. “We are making amazing progress towards that goal.”
The metrics Hogan cited include the state’s coronavirus positivity rate at 2.74%, the lowest since September.
As of Wednesday, the Maryland Health Department reports 770 people are hospitalized due to the virus. The figure represents a decrease of 29 patients within a 24-hour period.
The health department also reported about 65% of adults received a vaccine with nearly 2.4 million people are fully vaccinated.
The state’s percentage exceeds that national number based on the CDC reporting about 59% of Americans 16 and older have been vaccinated.
Both the state and federal data don’t include those 12 to 15 years old, though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may grant a final recommendation Wednesday evening to administer the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to that age group.
Eleven of the state’s 13 mass vaccination sites, including the Greenbelt Metro station, 300 pharmacies, local health departments and clinics, carry the Pfizer vaccine. A parent or guardian must accompany the teenager when receiving a vaccine.
Jinlene Chan, deputy health secretary, said the state prepared and worked “for weeks” to administer vaccines for those adolescents.
Chan said some pediatricians and other providers are ready to give a shot in the arm for teenagers and other family members.
She made a personal connection with a son in that 12-15 age group and raised the question, “Why vaccinate young kids?”
“This vaccine and the other life-saving vaccines are part of our state’s toolbox to help us turn the corner on COVID-19, especially as we race with the ongoing spread of these new variants that are more infectious,” she said. “Vaccines can protect teens against infections and potential complications from COVID-19, and importantly, decreases the chance that they could spread the infection to others.”
In regard to lifting the restrictions on businesses, counties and Baltimore City can still use local discretion.
After Hogan’s announcement, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks released a statement that the majority-Black jurisdiction will lift its restrictions starting at 5 p.m. Monday.
Six feet of distance will still be required with full capacity permitted at businesses such as amusement parks, bingo halls, bowling alleys, casinos and restaurants.
However, some restrictions will remain in place, including 50% capacity at banquet halls, reception rooms at hotels, concert venues and outdoor recreational activities.
Masks must be worn at crowded locations such as sports stadiums, outdoor concerts and on public transportation.
As of Tuesday, Prince George’s continues to lead the state with the most confirmed coronavirus cases at slightly more than 81,000.
However, the 3.1% positivity rate fell below 4% for the first time since mid-October.
The county’s infection rate of .82 on May 3 places the jurisdiction in the “low risk” category.