Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Tuesday that the state will decrease the allowed capacity for its bars and restaurants from 75% to 50%, citing a recent surge in coronavirus cases.
The state health department also issued a public health advisory, effective immediately, to discourage indoor gatherings of 25 or more people. Contract tracing shows that such events, including family gatherings and house parties, contributed to the state’s increased positivity rate.
The restaurant limits will take effect at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
“Too many residents and businesses have COVID fatigue,” Hogan said during a news conference in the State House in Annapolis. “Too many Marylanders are traveling out of state to unsafe locations, hosting large gatherings, driving to bars, attending house parties and refusing to wear masks.
“We absolutely must, and we will, continue to use every tool at our disposal,” he said.
For a seventh straight day, confirmed coronavirus cases in Maryland increased Monday by at least 1,000, and 11 of the state’s 24 jurisdictions are currently above its preferred 5% positivity rate.
Health data reported Tuesday show hospitalizations increased by 54 patients for a statewide total of 761, the highest figure since June 13.
The state’s positivity rate is currently 5.24% — the highest it’s been since June 18, when it hit 5.4%.
As of Tuesday, 4,084 Marylanders have died during the pandemic, up 12 from the previous day, according to health department statistics.
With the exception of essential services, Hogan also directed a period of mandatory telework across state agencies and for businesses to institute split schedules or staggered work times for employees.
A travel advisory has also been issued to encourage residents against “all nonessential” out-of-state travel during the Thanksgiving holiday to states with a positivity rate above 10%, or with an average case rate greater than 20 per 100,000 people.
Visitors to nursing homes and assisted living facilities should be tested before they arrive. In addition, staff should avoid all gatherings and the facilities are required to have a “sufficient” stockpile of personal protective equipment.
“The actions we are taking are necessary [and] in consultation with the top doctors and public health experts from our Maryland coronavirus recovery task force,” Hogan said. “We cannot afford to ignore these trends and patterns. Each of us has to be more cautious and more vigilant.”
Earlier in the day, Montgomery County, which has the second-highest number of confirmed cases in the state, announced it also will limit capacity at restaurants and other venues.
The executive order from County Executive Marc Elrich, issued last week and approved Tuesday by the county council, prohibits gatherings of more than 25 people and reduces capacity at fitness centers, indoor food establishments, museums and houses of worship to 25%. Any large events planned must be canceled or postponed.
That same percentage — or 25 people, whichever is lower — is mandated at personal grooming established such as hair and nail salons, barbershops and massage parlors.
The new provisions went into effect at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Baltimore Mayor Bernard “Jack” Young announced last week the city will tighten restrictions such as masks worn at indoor and outdoor public spaces and not exceed 25% capacity at restaurants, malls and other venues. Also, gatherings at homes may not exceed 10 people.
Those restrictions are scheduled to go into effect Thursday.
At Tuesday’s press conference, Ted Delbridge, executive director of the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Service Systems, said residents should prepare for the next phase of the pandemic.
For instance, he suggests residents get flu shots so that hospitals aren’t flooded while attempting to treat coronavirus patients.
“I cannot over-emphasize the critical importance of getting a flu vaccine for each of us,” said Delbridge, an emergency physician for 27 years. “It is valuable for our own health and for those around us. It is not too late.”