Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan issued an emergency order Thursday amid the ongoing surge in coronavirus cases throughout the state, putting a restriction on nonessential travel as Christmas approaches.

Hogan said incoming visitors and those who plan to journey outside the state must receive a negative COVID-19 test result or self-quarantine for 10 days.

“We all look forward to hosting or attending family gatherings and holiday parties,” the Republican governor said during a press conference in Annapolis. “Unfortunately, these are the very things contract tracing consistently shows are the most dangerous things we can do. You are safer at home for the holidays this year.”

Residents in neighboring jurisdictions — Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Washington, D.C. — are exempt from the order, as is another notable exception who’ll be allowed to trek across Maryland and spread good cheer.

“I have issued a very special emergency order which exempts the one true Santa Claus who resides at the North Pole,” Hogan said. “All non-human elves affiliated with Santa and the reindeer necessary for the propulsion of Santa’s sleigh [are exempt] from any and all travel and testing quarantine requirements.

“Santa says he will be wearing his mask and he asked me to remind all the kids out there to please remember to leave the milk and cookies out as always,” he said.

On a more serious note, Hogan also announced in-person services at state agencies will be suspended for two weeks starting Monday.

Greg Slater, secretary for the state transportation department, said the transit operations to be closed include EZPass customer service centers, MTA Transit Store and all Motor Vehicle Administration branches. Two local offices in Prince George’s County are in Largo and Beltsville.

For people who must commute to work, Slater said they must wear masks or other face coverings and maintain social distancing.

“If you don’t have to travel, please don’t,” said Slater, who began his job exactly one year ago as transportation secretary.

On Thursday, the state health department reported 2,217 confirmed cases, bringing the statewide total to nearly 244,000. Another 49 people died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

In terms of the economy, Hogan announced the state will provide an economic relief package of $180 million.

The funding includes $50 million for hotels, motels and other hospitality businesses toward payroll expenses, rent and utilities.

About $40 million will provide a boost in temporary cash assistance slated to help 66,000 families and another $40 million to disability care providers that will help more than 17,000 people.

The other funding includes:

• $30 million for restaurants.
• $15 million for the Main Street program through the state Department of Community Housing and Urban Development.
• $5 million to help “socially or economically damaged businesses,” with a specific focus for those located in rural counties.

“We will continue to take every action we can at the state level to help those most in need,” Hogan said.

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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