Small businesses can reopen. Recreational enthusiasts can go fishing and boating. Golfers can hit the ball off the tee.
These are three of the possible activities Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said residents may be able to participate in next month. However, the “Maryland Strong: Roadmap to Recovery” plan to combat the coronavirus pandemic would be implemented in three stages.
Stage one, rated as “low risk,” would lift the governor’s stay-at-home order to allow for some businesses to reopen, residents receive certain medical and dental procedures, limited outdoor religious and recreational activities and fitness classes. Each would still adhere to social distancing measures.
Stage two, categorized as “medium risk,” has numerous steps and many weeks toward recovery. Possible implementations include a raised cap on attendees of social gatherings, increased participation at indoor gyms, reopening of child care centers and transit operations returning to normal schedules.
The “high risk” final stage would permit large social gatherings at bars, entertainment venues and churches and ease visitation restrictions at nursing homes and hospitals. Social distancing and wearing masks and face coverings would still apply until the state of emergency ends.
“I want to stress that each of these recovery stages will need to be instituted in a safe, gradual and effective manner,” he said Friday, April 24 during a press conference in Annapolis. “If we try to rush this and if we don’t do it in a thoughtful and responsible way, it could cause a rebound of the virus, which could deepen the economic crisis, prolong the fiscal problems and slow our economic recovery.”
Hogan cited four areas the state needs to address before fully reopening: securing more personal protective equipment for front-line health care workers, increasing hospital surge capacity, reaching adequate testing capacity and establishing a robust tracing program.
Specifically, the measure includes expanding testing capability up to 20,000 tests per day, increasing hospital surge capacity by 6,000 beds and obtaining millions more surgical masks and ventilators.
In terms of “contact tracers” to research and investigate confirmed positive COVID-19 cases, Hogan announced April 22 the state signed a contract with the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center to hire 750 people to conduct the work. The state already has 250 workers.
During the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak, Hogan created a response team with medical and science professionals.
Now, as the recovery phase looms, some government and business leaders have been added to the group, including Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, Arne Sorenson, president and CEO of Marriott International, Robert Doar, an economist and president of American Enterprise Institute, and Kevin Plank, executive chairman of Under Armor.
Through Hogan’s direction, the state Department of Commerce formed 13 advisory groups to also assist with the effort to help Maryland businesses “safely” reopen. The groups are sectioned into several categories — retail, accommodations, sports, restaurants and bars, attractions, destinations, tourism, transportation, manufacturing, professional and financial services, personal services, small business, construction and development, and arts.
In regard to public schools, the report dedicates a half-page without a specific time frame on when to reopen schools, which will remain closed through May 15.
According the report, it recommends a statewide verse regional approach to reopening schools that focuses on both health and economic impacts. This suggestion comes from the National Governors Association that Hogan serves as its chair.
“Unfortunately, life is not going to just immediately go back to normal,” Hogan said. “In fact, it is important to recognize that until a vaccine is developed, the way we go about our daily lives and the way we work is going to be significantly different for a while longer.”
Meanwhile, some Prince George’s County residents received a robocall from County Executive Angela Alsobrooks on Sunday, April 26 with a reminder to follow the stay-at-home order and wear masks and face coverings when going out for essential travel.
The order “is not meant to scare us, but to protect the entire community,” he said. “COVID-19 does not discriminate. We must do our part to slow the spread. We will get through this together.”
View Hogan’s recovery plan at governor.maryland.gov/recovery.