Facing a national and statewide surge in COVID-19 infections, Gov. Larry Hogan on Wednesday postponed any further reopening plans, expanded the facemask order and issued advisories to Marylanders traveling to nine states where the infection rate is above 10 percent.
Hogan said travel to Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina and Texas should be canceled or postponed. Marylanders returning from those states should get tested and self-quarantine until the results are back.
The announcement follows a federal report that identified 21 “red zone” states where COVID-19 infections have spiked and closure of non-essential businesses and tougher facemask requirements were recently recommended by the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
“Maryland is not on that list of 21 states and we do not want to be on that list,” Hogan said at his Wednesday press briefing. “Our numbers do not warrant those types of actions but we are not immune. The virus does not recognize state borders.
Starting Friday at 5:30 p.m., facemasks are required in all indoor places. This includes the workplace, mass transit, and food establishments. Masks are also required in outdoor spaces where social distancing of six feet is not possible.
The state will remain in Stage 2 of the Recovery Plan that began on June 19 and remain there until science backed data make it “prudent” to move into Stage 3, Hogan said.
“We find ourselves at a fork in the road,” Hogan continued. “We could continue making progress and continue heading in the right direction, or we could ignore the warnings and spike back up.”
Maryland’s infection rate as of Wednesday, July 29, was 4.77 percent and has remained below 5 percent for 34 straight days. Only Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Prince George’s County have tested above the 5 percent threshold established by the World Health Organization, Hogan said.
On Wednesday the Maryland Department of Health reported 571 hospitalizations, up from a low 385 on July 10.
Maryland hospitalizations have increased by 28 percent and the spike is attributed mostly to Marylanders under the age of 40, Hogan said.
“The uptick in these acute care beds is largely younger patients,” he said. “It’s further proof that this virus can impact anyone, anywhere at any age.”
He said the rise in hospitalizations was enough to “trigger” a halt to any further reopening plans under the state’s Roadmap to Recovery.
According to the latest backtracing data, the recent rise in infections comes from family gatherings, house parties and outdoor activities.
Hogan said it was up to local leaders to enforce the safety protocols and clamp down on businesses “willfully violating the law.”
He said it was the responsibility of local leaders, local health departments, liquor boards, and local law enforcement agencies to enforce compliance in their jurisdictions.