Gov. Larry Hogan announced Friday that the number of COVID-19 cases in Maryland, DC and Virginia is still on the rise and that reopening the economy in the Capital region would require a coordinated effort with Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia and DC Mayor Muriel Bowser.
But to move forward, there would need to be clear indicators that the disease is on the decline.
“We’re really keeping an eye on how many people are going in the hospital, how many people are moving from the hospital to an acute or intensive care bed, and then how many people we’re losing to the disease,” Hogan said at his 2:30 press conference outside the State House. “All three of those categories have to be in a downward direction for 14 straight days before you can even consider the reopening of anything.”
He said those categories were a matter of federal guidelines.
Hogan announced the death toll in the region had reached 818 but that the recovery rate from the virus has increased 22 percent.
“We understand that while each state or each area is unique, there are certainly things that we have to do together as a region,” Hogan said. “We’re all in some part of a phase of talking about the gradual reopening, but not able to start that quite yet.”
He said four building blocks would need to be “solidly in place” before lifting the current restrictions:
- Expanded testing capacity
- Increased hospital surge capability
- Expansive contact tracing capability to identify transmissions of the disease in the population
- Increased supply of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)
Hogan announced that three Maryland companies have received grants to make medical equipment and supplies that have been in short supply.
Awesome Ninja Labs of Baltimore won a grant to increase their capacity to make face shields; NRL and Associates of Queen Anne’s County will increase production of their ventilator line, and DFW of Washington County will make respirator parts.
Hogan also reminded Marylanders of his executive order on April 15 that requires shoppers to wear masks or face coverings in all retail stores. Retail employees are also required to wear face coverings.
The order goes into effect at 7 a.m. Saturday, April 18.
Violation of the executive order is punishable with up to a year in prison and/or a $5,000 fine.
Hogan cautioned not wearing a mask violates their rights of others.
“Some people have said that covering their faces infringes on their rights, but this isn’t just about your rights or protecting yourself, it’s about protecting your neighbors,” he said. “And the best science that we have shows that people might not know that they’re carriers of the virus [and] could infect other people. And spreading this disease infringes on your neighbor’s rights.”