Baltimore County to allow reopening of retail stores, barbers, salons; maintains restrictions on religious gatherings

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The Baltimore County Courthouse. Photo by James G. Howes, via Wikipedia.

Baltimore County retail stores, barber shops and hair salons will be allowed to reopen with limited capacity, effective 9 a.m. on Friday, Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. announced Thursday.

The move comes after Gov. Larry Hogan lifted the statewide stay-at-home order last week and allowed certain businesses and other places to reopen, while leaving it up to local leaders to determine to what extent their jurisdictions would participate in the first stage of the state’s recovery plan.

The day after Hogan announced the state was ready to begin its first recovery phase, Olszewski said Baltimore County would only allow retail stores to do business via curbside pickup, and barbershops and salons could not open at all.

But during a press conference on Thursday, Olszewski said that has put Baltimore County businesses at a disadvantage compared to competitors in jurisdictions with more relaxed rules.

“The governor’s orders have created a patchwork of rules, and now Baltimore County businesses face restrictions that no longer apply to some of their competitors nearby–some just a few minutes away,” he said.

He added that as people travel to businesses in other jurisdictions, potentially spreading coronavirus, it limits the public health benefits of the restrictions that Baltimore County has implemented.

Olszewski said easing restrictions on certain businesses is “in the best interest of Baltimore County at this time.”

Retail stores, barber shops and hair salons can reopen, but may not have more than 10 people at one time, including staff, and must maintain social distancing and face covering measures.

The county is continuing to encourage curbside pickup and delivery at retail stores.

Shopping malls must remain closed unless the retail establishments they contain can be accessed from the outside of the mall building.

Barber shops and hair salons must operate by appointment only.

Other personal services establishments, such as nail salons, massage parlors, tattoo shops and tanning salons, must remain closed under state orders.

Gatherings of more than 10 people remain prohibited, regardless of whether those gatherings take place indoors or outdoors.

Included in that prohibition are religious institutions; however, they are allowed to hold drive-through or drive-in services.

Baltimore County on Thursday offered testing for COVID-19 without an appointment at the drive-through site at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium. The site reached capacity just before 11 a.m., Olszewski tweeted.

On Monday, county officials announced they would be providing personal protective equipment directly to nursing homes and other long-term care facilities in Baltimore County.

With the county expanding its testing capabilities and increasing nursing homes’ access to personal protective equipment, Olszewski said he was “confident” in Baltimore County’s readiness to ease some coronavirus-related restrictions while still protecting the safety and health of residents.

“While these steps are important, we’re not out of the woods yet, and I urge all residents to continue practicing social distancing to limit the spread of this virus,” Olszewski said in a statement.

Olszewski said Baltimore County is no longer under a stay-at-home order, but he said residents are safer at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

In a news release, county officials encouraged residents to continue staying home except for essential trips, including going to work, attending a medical appointment, getting food or other retail goods, or participating in outdoor recreational activities.

The county is also encouraging employers to continue to allow employees to work from home.

All residents should wear masks and maintain six feet of distance between people when in public, and should thoroughly wash their hands and sanitize high-touch surfaces, county officials said in the news release.

Marcus Dieterle

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