Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan issued several executive orders Monday to combat the coronavirus crisis that coincide with a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prohibit gatherings of more than 50 people.
The governor’s directives include the closure of bars, restaurants, fitness centers and movie theaters by 5 p.m. Monday.
The orders also direct the state health department to work alongside providers to reopen closed hospitals and other health centers across the state to create an additional 6,000 beds.
Approximately 1,000 Maryland National Guard soldiers and airmen were activated to assist the crisis with another 1,200 Guardsmen ready to go.
“You’re going to have to hunker down significantly more than we as a country are doing in order to fight this outbreak,” Hogan said outside the governor’s mansion in Annapolis. “Far too many people have continued to ignore those warnings and are crowding into bars and restaurants willingly putting the health and safety of others in grave danger. Decision-makers at the federal, state and local level are going to have to take drastic actions … but they are absolutely necessary to save hundreds of thousands of Americans.”
To relieve financial burdens, the governor announced that utility and cable companies are prohibited from cutting gas, water, phone, or cable television services. Additionally, state courts aren’t allowed to order the eviction of any tenant who fails to pay rent as the result of the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.
Public schools superintendent Karen Salmon, who joined the press conference, said the state received a special waiver to serve three meals and a snack per day while schools are closed through March 27. Salmon said more than 100,000 meals could be served.
In Prince George’s County, students can receive those meals at 25 sites starting Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The lists of schools can be found at pgcps.org.
PGCPS CEO Monica Goldson said parents who bring their children to any of the sites can receive hard copies of assignments while at home. Teachers and administrators for the county school system, which has 82,000 students who receive free and reduced-price meals, distributed enrichment packets for students last week before the state’s executive order to close at public schools.
“Parents can have additional support to make that there’s no learning lost,” Goldson said at a Thursday press conference with other Prince George’s officials and Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Maryland) at the county’s Emergency Operations Center in Landover.
As of 10 a.m. Monday, the state Health Department highlighted 37 confirmed cases. More than hours later, Prince George’s County officials announced its 11th confirmation to bring the state’s total number of cases to 38.
All county government buildings, libraries and Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission centers and parks are closed to the public until further notice while the state remains on a state of emergency.
Ernest Carter, the county’s chief health officer, emphasized social distancing remains the key element for residents to decrease the spread of the virus. In other words, people stand at least six feet apart from each other, or stay home and watch Netflix.
“If we don’t practice social distancing, then we could put our older people at risk,” he said. “Prince Georgians need to focus on following the advice of public health experts and stay in their homes as much as possible. It’s not going to last forever, but it’s got to happen now.”