ANNAPOLIS — Maryland’s bars, restaurants, casinos can start opening up their doors for more people at 5 p.m. Friday.
Because the state’s COVID-19 metrics are improving, Gov. Larry Hogan announced Tuesday that capacity limits will be lifted for those and other businesses such as fitness centers, churches, hair and nail salons and bowling alleys.
Large indoor and outdoor venues including movie theaters, concert venues and Camden Yards, home of the Baltimore Orioles, will be allowed up to 50% capacity.
Hogan stressed a statewide mandate to wear masks and maintain six feet of social distancing will continue. In addition, the state of emergency will remain in effect.
“The sun is shining. Spring is coming and the weather is getting warmer,” the Republican governor said during a press conference in Annapolis. “I want to be clear the virus is still with us and it remains important to continue to take precautions to stay safe.”
He touted the state’s vaccination efforts, particularly its handling of the newly approved one-dose vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson. Maryland has given out more than 19,000 doses of the J&J vaccine — the most nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Hogan said “the time is right” to lift some restrictions, citing various metrics trending in a positive direction.
The state health department said hospitals admitted no COVID-19 patients Monday and the positivity rate sits at 3.04%. Additionally, the daily number of reported cases has remained below 1,000 since Feb. 19.
Twenty-five virus-related deaths were reported Monday, bringing the statewide toll to 7,806 since the pandemic’s outset last year.
According to Goucher College’s first poll of the year released Tuesday, 65% of registered voters approve of Hogan’s job performance, a 3% increase from the same time last year.
He received the highest approval rating from Blacks at 71%, compared to 62% of white respondents.
In terms of geography, Hogan earned the highest approval rating of 69% outside the Baltimore and D.C. metropolitan areas.
Hogan held at least 10 press conferences this year providing updates on the state combating the coronavirus pandemic.
Almost half of the 725 Marylanders surveyed in the Goucher poll believe the pandemic remains the most important issue facing the state today. The economy came in second place at 15% and education third at 7%.
Although police reform has been one of the most dominant topics in the Maryland General Assembly and in certain parts of the state this year, the poll ranked “crime/criminal justice/policing” as the state’s fourth most important issue at 6%.
“I want to applaud the governor for [his] continued leadership as we work together to put this pandemic behind us,” said former CDC Director Robert Redfield, who’s serving as the state’s senior adviser for public health. “The measures that you’re putting in place today are all sensible steps to get more of the economy reopen in a smart, purposeful way. While keeping in place the powerful mitigation tools that we have to confront COVID-19.”