Stage 1 of Maryland Strong Roadmap to Recovery may roll out soon if the number of new COVID-19 cases continues to consistently decline for another week, said Gov. Larry Hogan at Wednesday’s press conference.
As a primer for Stage 1, Hogan gave approval to resume certain outdoor recreational activities such as “golf, tennis, boating, fishing, camping, and other activities” beginning Thursday, April 7 at 7 a.m.
At the same time hospitals and doctors’ offices can resume elective surgeries and procedures that were postponed by executive order when the pandemic took hold in Maryland last month.
“Our coronavirus recovery team, including our doctors and scientists, has agreed that there are some additional things that we can do safely right now prior to lifting the stay-at-home order and the beginning of Stage 1, ”Hogan said.
“Overall, we are down slightly from where we were a week ago,” Hogan continued. “If these trends continue into next week, we will be ready to lift the stay-at-home order and begin Stage 1 of our recovery plan. That would mean the reopening of certain types of businesses and lower-risk community, religious and quality-of-life activities.”
Hogan said the state has seen a “good trend” in the last week with five straight days of declining hospitalizations and eight straight days of flat ICU admissions.
He held firm at his April 24 press conference that he would not move to Stage 1 of the Roadmap until the state logged 14 straight days of decline in these admissions.
Once the 14-day milestone is met, Stage 1 would start the reopening of small shops and some small businesses.
“We are preparing to launch our reopening plan in order to safely get people back to work, to safely get our small businesses back open again [and] get our economy back on track so that Maryland and our nation can defeat this virus and come back stronger and better than ever.”
Dr. David Marcozzi, incident commander for the University of Maryland Medical System, appeared with Hogan and echoed the need to stay vigilant and take precautions to protect ourselves and those around us from contracting the virus.
“As the Governor announced today, it is a welcome step forward on a path towards our state’s recovery. But it must be done with the necessary steps and precautions in place, and frankly, some common sense,” he said. ”As the weather warms up and we move to more outdoor activities, we need to keep a few things in mind. Number one, this virus is still with us, and we need to be sensitive to any concerns we might have with regard to spreading this virus amongst all of our citizens, particularly those who are more fragile.”
Marcozzi said masks, social distancing, handwashing and avoiding large groups were critical to maintain the downward trend in infections.
“To continue to flatten the curve, we as Marylanders need to be consistently making the right choices for ourselves, for our friends, and our family,” he said.
Marcozzi expressed faith in the state’s hospitals and doctors’ offices to handle procedures with more Personal Protection Equipment coming online and better staff training and procedures.
“I want to emphasize, there is no reason to delay time-sensitive care, particularly for conditions that you’re concerned about,” he said. “Maryland’s hospitals and doctors’ offices are able to, or are taking steps so that they are able to care for patients during this pandemic.”
Maryland schools closed for the rest of the year
While the hospital and outdoor activities move slowly back to normal, schools have been shut down for the remainder of the academic year.
Maryland School Superintendent Karen Salmon said it was the “appropriate decision in order to continue to protect the health and safety of our students, educators, staff, and all members of school communities throughout Maryland.”
She said she came to the decision after consulting with health officials and the Maryland State Board of Education.
Salmon said it was unlikely that schools would reopen during Stage 1 and would begin in some form under Stages 2 and 3.
“Schedules for instruction, meals, and transportation may all require modifications,” She said. “Any return of students and staff to the classroom depends on the circumstances in each school system.”