Citing a worsening trend in COVID-19 infections and a lack of local enforcement of current safety protocols, Gov. Larry Hogan on Tuesday ordered tighter restrictions on bars and restaurants.
“Too many businesses are failing to comply with the state regulations and orders, and counties with the primary responsibility for ensuring compliance of the law and enforcing public health regulations are in some cases failing to do so,” Hogan said at his 5 p.m. press conference on Tuesday. “Sadly, as a result, the virus has returned to our state in a big way.”
Hogan said the rural areas of the state are also getting hit by a spike in cases. He said 11 of the state’s 24 jurisdictions now have positivity rates above the 5 percent benchmark established by the World Health Organization that was last seen in the state on June 25th.
“We’re now seeing widespread community transmission, not just in our cities and urban and suburban areas, but in our rural counties that had not experienced a large spike earlier this year,” he said. “More people are getting infected with the virus, more people are getting hospitalized, more people are going into intensive care and more Marylanders are dying.”
As of the press conference, Hogan said the state had a 5.24 percent infection rate that has been on the rise for 19 days — and there has been more than 1,000 new cases a day over the last seven.
Also reaching new highs since June is the number of hospitalizations at 761, with 176 admitted to ICU beds.
Hogan said the federal government has now classified Maryland as a red zone in the number of cases per 100,000, climbing from 14.5 last week to 19.8 this week.
“More people are dying from this virus, including now 4,084 Marylanders,” he said.
With the new health restrictions came an advisory warning against indoor gatherings of more than 25 persons.
Hogan’s statement came with a strong travel advisory that recommends against nonessential out-of-state travel to states with positivity rates exceeding 10 percent or with an average case rate of 20 per 100,000 or more.
The Hogan administration has ordered assisted living facilities and nursing homes to stockpile PPE for the winter months ahead.
Hogan said fighting the pandemic must be an “all hands on deck” approach and that the new restrictions and protocols carry the force of law.
“Failure to follow them will result in serious consequences,” he warned.
“[The Counties] have the primary responsibility to strictly enforce these restrictions and orders to the letter of the law, and we have asked them to immediately ramp up their enforcement efforts,” Hogan said. “All violators should be warned they run the risk of jail time, fines, and the likelihood of actions being taken regarding their liquor licenses or other county licenses or even the businesses being closed for failure to comply.”