- Associated Press - Friday, May 15, 2020

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - Maryland businesses began a gradual reopening of retail and personal services on Friday as a stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Larry Hogan about six weeks ago in response to the coronavirus ended in the late afternoon, though the governor left flexibility for counties to decide how much they want to reopen.

The state moved from a stay-at-home order to what the governor is calling a “safer-at-home health advisory.” Under the advisory, residents are still being urged to stay home, especially older residents who are more vulnerable to the coronavirus.

Merja Washburn, owner of Woodcraft Artisans on Main Street in downtown Annapolis, opened her store for the first time since nonessential businesses were closed. While she was not able to allow customers in her store to browse under Anne Arundel County’s partial reopening, she opened her door at 5 p.m. to show she was open and planned to offer curbside service to passersby who spot something of interest through the window.

“I don’t know really how it’s going to work in a store like mine, but I’m going to try,” said Washburn, who sells wood-carved maps of areas with prominent bodies of water like the nearby Chesapeake Bay.

Kyanne Garrigan, owner of a holistic boutique called Full Heart Soulutions in Bel Air, Maryland, in Harford County, was busy setting flowers in the planter outside her store window before 5 p.m. Her store, which employs seven people, would be opening back up.



“We are getting a big box of sanitizer for our customers to clean themselves when shopping,” Garrigan said. “We are even going to give away free pens so our customers aren’t sharing the same pens.”

In a diverse state with urban Baltimore, large suburbs outside the nation’s capital and less-populated rural areas, a majority of the state’s residents live in jurisdictions where local officials are either keeping the stay-at-home order in place or implementing a more limited reopening.

Maryland’s two largest jurisdictions with the highest number of cases, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, were keeping the stay-at-home order in place. Prince George’s has had 10,791 confirmed cases of the virus - more than a quarter of Maryland’s nearly 37,000 cases. Montgomery, the state’s most populous county with more than 1 million residents, has had 7,759 cases.

Baltimore, the state’s largest city which has had about 3,600 cases, also was keeping the stay-at-home order in place.

Howard County is one of the state’s jurisdictions that is not easing restrictions as much as under the governor’s stage one rules. For example, retail businesses may open for curbside pickup or delivery only in Howard County.

“While Howard County is certainly not ready to fully reopen under the governor’s phase one, we are pleased to take these steps to begin safely reopening our economy,” Howard County Executive Calvin Ball said Friday in a conference call.

Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Frederick counties also were implementing partial reopenings. Counties in western Maryland and on the Eastern Shore were moving ahead with the governor’s stage one reopening. The governor’s office released a map of where counties stood on reopening.

Under the governor’s stage one reopening, some retail stores may reopen at up to 50% capacity. That includes businesses like clothing and shoe stores, pet groomers, animal adoption shelters, car washes art galleries and bookstores. Florists, furniture stores, jewelers and sporting goods stores also were among the businesses that could reopen.

Manufacturing may resume operations in a manner that protects the health employees, with guidelines encouraging multiple shifts, under the governor’s stage one reopening. Churches and houses of worship can begin holding religious services at up to 50% capacity with outdoor services strongly encouraged. Barber shops and hair salons can reopen with up to 50% capacity by appointment only.

Maryland reported that there have been 36,986 confirmed cases of the virus in the state as of Friday. The state reported a total of 1,792 confirmed virus deaths, 44 more than reported Thursday morning. The state has had 145,840 negative test results, 3,289 more than Thursday. Maryland had 1,496 people hospitalized with the virus. That’s 42 fewer than Thursday.

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Associated Press photographer Julio Cortez in Bel Air, Maryland, contributed to this report.

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Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

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