Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Tuesday new coronavirus-related restrictions as the state has “crossed over into the danger zone” amid a recent case surge.
“Since last week, most of our key metrics have worsened considerably,” the Republican governor said. “Too many residents and businesses have COVID fatigue, and they’ve begun letting their guard down.”
The state has recorded more than 1,000 new cases each day over the last seven days, and hospitalization rates have spiked to the highest level since June. At least 11 of 24 state jurisdictions reportedly have case positivity rates above the 5% benchmark set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Mr. Hogan said contact tracing shows family gatherings are “the most common” link to infections, and recent cases include people who worked outside their home, dined inside a restaurant, or traveled outside the state.
In an effort to combat further spread, Mr. Hogan said starting Wednesday indoor capacity at bars and restaurants must be reduced from 75% to 50%.
The state Department of Health also is issuing public health advisories warning against indoor gatherings of 25 or more people, as well as out-of-state travel. Residents are encouraged to avoid the eight states that currently have a case positivity rate above 10%, and the 35 states with an average case rate above 20 per 100,000 people.
“You should immediately postpone or cancel travel to any of these states with spiking metrics,” Mr. Hogan said during a press conference.
Those traveling outside Maryland for an “essential reason” should be tested upon return, and quarantine while waiting for the result.
State employees approved to do telework also will be mandated to do so, and all other employers are encouraged to follow suit. Additionally, all businesses will be encouraged to limit the proximity of workers by adjusting employee schedules.
State health officials also issued an emergency order to activate the next level of hospital surge capacity, which includes adding alternative site capacity, as well as more staff and clinical care to nursing homes.
New guidance for nursing homes advises facilities to create a personal protective equipment stockpile “for winter months,” and encourages staff to “increase vigilance.” People should get tested for the virus before visiting.
“These are absolutely necessary to help us withstand this surge, to save lives, and to keep Maryland on the road to recovery and open for business,” Mr. Hogan said.
As of Tuesday, 156,709 total cases have been confirmed, 1,338 of which are new. The testing positivity rate is at 5.24%, and 12 new virus-related deaths brings the total to 4,084.
Mr. Hogan’s announcement came as the increase in coronavirus cases prompted schools in Anne Arundel County to close limited in-person classes on Friday and delayed the reopening of more classes. The majority of students and teachers at Hartford County Public Schools also will go back to online learning at the end of this week.
Seven county officials sent the governor a letter on Friday urging him to work with them on a statewide response as the “fall surge” in cases “predicted by public health officials is underway.”
The officials said Mr. Hogan had not participated in a statewide call with county leaders for over 160 days.
The letter was signed by Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich, who issued new restrictions in an order passed by officials on Tuesday. The order limits gatherings to 25 or fewer people, reduces indoor capacity to 25% at numerous establishments and requires restaurants to keep a record of all indoor and outdoor guests for at least 30 days.
“We have been watching the daily number of new cases go up for more than two weeks and it’s unfortunately time to roll back some of our reopening steps in order to decrease the spike we are seeing,” Mr. Elrich, a Democrat, said Tuesday in a press release. “Like you, I am experiencing ‘COVID fatigue’ and want things to go back to normal, but we have to stay at this in order to protect the health of our community.”