- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Tuesday tightened coronavirus-related restrictions, including limiting hours at dining establishments and reducing capacity at a number of businesses.

Under the new order effective 5 p.m. Friday, dine-in services at bars, restaurants and other establishments must close between 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. each day. Additionally, fans will not be allowed at professional or collegiate events, and capacity at many businesses will be reduced to 50%.

Businesses that must limit capacity include retail, organizations, religious institutions, personal services, bowling alleys, pool halls, skating rinks, fitness centers and social clubs.

Recent contact tracing data shows a “large uptick” in new infections linked to exposure in bars and restaurants, and Mr. Hogan said increasing reports show “compliance with public health protocols drops dramatically later in the evening.”

“This is not the flu. It’s not fake news. It’s not going to magically disappear just because we’re all tired of it, and we want our normal lives back,” Mr. Hogan said during a press conference. “We are in a war right now, and the virus is winning.”

The state’s hospitalization rate topped 1,000 on Tuesday for the first time since June, and Mr. Hogan said at least 19 hospitals statewide are at 90% capacity.

To address the surge, the Maryland Department of Health issued new orders including prohibiting hospital visitation until further notice. Some exceptions include compassionate care, guardians of minors, obstetrics and support for patients with disabilities.

Hospitals near capacity limits now can transfer patients to other hospitals, and physicians are advised to avoid non-urgent elective procedures likely to require prolonged ventilation, ICU admission or skilled nursing care.

Nursing home visitors must have proof of a negative test 72 hours before stopping by, and residents must be tested once a week, and staff twice a week, starting no later than Friday.

Over the last week, Health Department data shows Maryland recorded its highest case rates since the pandemic began, with more than 1,000 new cases reported each day. The state confirmed 2,149 new cases Tuesday, bringing the statewide total to 169,805.

The average seven-day case rate per 100,000 people is the highest ever recorded at 29, and it constitutes a 46% increase over the last week, officials said. The daily positivity rate is at 6.85%, which exceeds the 5% benchmark set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

An additional 26 deaths brings the toll to 4,186, which Mr. Hogan said is more than the number of Marylanders lost “each year to car accidents, gun violence, and the flu combined.”

Last week, the Republican governor limited indoor capacity at bars and restaurants to 50%, and the Health Department issued advisories against gatherings of 25 or more people and out-of-state travel to high-risk places.

Mr. Hogan on Wednesday will partake in an emergency meeting about the nationwide virus surge with the National Governors Association. He also will discuss the country’s emergency response in a call with the transition team for presumptive President-elect Joseph R. Biden on Thursday.

“I’m very concerned that we’re in the middle of this battle with people dying and hospitals overflowing in every state in the country, and we have to make sure that there’s a smooth handoff [of power],” Mr. Hogan said. “We have a brand new team that has not been involved and does not know much of what’s currently happening, and that’s a problem.”

Officials in jurisdictions throughout Maryland, including Baltimore and Prince George’s, Montgomery and Anne Arundel counties, have enacted even stricter capacity limits in recent days.

Virus cases in the District and Virginia also are increasing, which prompted Gov. Ralph Northam last week to implement restrictions that are similar to Mr. Hogan’s. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said the uptick “may” require new restrictions.

• Emily Zantow can be reached at ezantow@washingtontimes.com.

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