Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks (at lectern) speaks during a press conference at the Wayne K. Curry Administration Building in Largo, Md., on March 23. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)
Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks (at lectern) speaks during a press conference at the Wayne K. Curry Administration Building in Largo, Md., on March 23. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

As confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus continue to rise in Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan issued an executive order for all nonessential businesses to close such as retail and department stores.

Businesses that can remain open include those defined by the federal government such as pharmaceutical and chemical manufacturers, dry cleaners, defense companies, grocery and convenience stores, hospitals and public safety agencies.

Some restaurants and big-box stores such as Lowe’s and Home Depot that sells home improvement supplies can remain open.

A full list of the type of businesses that can remain open can be found at maryland.gov.

Although Hogan said at a press conference Monday, March 23 this didn’t constitute a shelter-in-place order during the pandemic of the novel coronavirus, also called COVID-19, but he reiterated for people who don’t have to leave their home to stay put.

Hogan specifically mentioned people at the beach in Ocean City and at local parks throughout the state. The state prohibited gatherings of more than 10 people through an executive order issued Thursday, March 19.

“For weeks we have taken some swift, decisive unprecedented actions in our state in order to slow the spread of COVID-19 to save lives,” he said. “Let me repeat once again as strongly as I possibly can: if you are engaged in this kind of activity you are breaking the law and you are literally endangering the lives of your family, your friends and your fellow citizens.”

As of Monday, the state Health Department reported 21 out of 24 counties and Baltimore City had confirmed cases.

After Hogan detailed which businesses can remain open, he announced several initiatives to help small businesses and workers.

The state Department of Commerce will provide up to $125 million in loans and grants to small business owners and nonprofit organizations through a COVID-19 emergency relief fund. Those organizations with 50 or fewer full- and part-time employees are eligible to apply for loans up to $50,000 and grants up to $10,000.

The state Department of Labor will provide $7 million to avoid laying off workers so they can adhere to the social distancing policies of being away from people at least six feet apart.

Prince George’s County decided to incorporate the social distance function where services are reduced to essential functions only, which include police and fire departments, public works and transportation. All trash and recyclables collection will continue, but bulky trash pickup for items such as carpets, doors and other large furniture will be suspended until further notice.

County Executive Angela Alsobrooks also addressed how the pandemic has affected those experiencing domestic violence, saying that domestic violence petitions will still be issued if necessary.

“We are so aware that domestic violence still remains an issue in many of our communities,” she said. “We are seeing the stress and tension often brings about more and more of those cases. We will remain vigilant, even during this crisis, to take care of our residents.”

Because shelters and other places are closed to the public, the National Network to End Domestic Violence points out that for individuals experiencing domestic violence, “this public health situation can expose additional dangers.”

As for coronavirus testing, the county Health Department and the state are working to set up drive-thru screening and a testing station at FedEx Field in Landover. Members of the Maryland National Guard are helping to set up the station also assisted by the University of Maryland.

Ernest Carter, the county’s chief health officer, said a date for testing at the location hasn’t been determined because there’s still few testing kits in the state.

“The governor and the county executive don’t want to open it up unless we have enough test kits to be continuous and sustainable,” he said. “Not everybody needs a test and the state has been very stringent on those test guidelines. We’re going to abide by that.”

Alsobrooks acknowledged she shares similar concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

“These are unprecedented times that no one has seen before,” she said. “Coronavirus will not have the final say. It will take us some time to get out of this. We will come together as a community as we have done. When we dig out of this, we will be stronger than ever before. Hang in there.”

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Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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