Gov. Larry Hogan ordered all bars, restaurants, movie theaters and gyms in Maryland to close, effective 5 p.m. Monday, to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Food service establishments will be allowed to continue drive-through, carryout and food delivery operations under that order, Hogan said.
Essential services, such as grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations and banks, will remain open, he added.
Hogan also prohibited any social, community, religious, recreational or sports gatherings and events of more than 50 people in Maryland, heightening a restriction that he imposed Thursday, which originally prohibited events with more than 250 people.
The new prohibition is based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which recommends the postponement or cancellation of events in the United States with 50 people or more for the next eight weeks.
Those orders “carry full force of the law and will be strictly enforced” by local law enforcement officials, Maryland State Police, and National Guardsmen, Hogan said.
The closures do not officially apply to retail stores and other businesses, but Hogan cautioned against any establishment hosting more than 50 people in close proximity to one another.
“We don’t want anyone congregating with more than 50 people in one place, regardless of what kind of facility it is. But we don’t want to completely shut down commerce and we want people to get the things that they need,” he said.
Hogan said not enough people have followed health officials’ guidance to stay home to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
“Unfortunately, far too many people have continued to ignore those warnings and are crowding into bars and restaurants, willingly putting the health and safety of others in grave danger,” he said.
Hogan directed the Maryland Department of Health to assess whether closed hospital facilities could be reopened and increase the state’s healthcare capacity by 6,000 beds.
The nine Maryland passengers who were aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship–which experienced an coronavirus on board–and who were later transported to a military base in Georgia, will be arriving back home to Maryland and will be in the care of the Maryland National Guard, Hogan said.
As of 10 a.m. Monday, there are a total of 37 cases of the coronavirus confirmed in Maryland, including 15 in Montgomery County, 10 in Prince George’s County, four in Baltimore County, two in Harford County, and one each in Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Carroll, Charles, Howard and Talbot counties, according to the Maryland Department of Health’s Maryland COVID-19 Case Map Dashboard.
That dashboard will be updated every day at 10 a.m., according to Mike Ricci, spokesperson for Gov. Larry Hogan’s office.
Nationwide, there have been at least 4,093 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States, including at least 69 deaths and 12 recoveries, as of 1:52 p.m. Monday, according to a real-time dashboard created by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering.
Hogan issued an executive order prohibiting utility companies, including electric, gas, water, sewer, phone, cable TV, and internet service providers, from shutting off services to residential customers or charging those customers late fees during the current state of emergency.
He also prohibited the eviction of any tenant during the state of emergency.
State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon has applied for a federal waiver to provide three meals per day to students while schools are closed.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner will be available at 138 meal sites across the state, which can be viewed at mdsummermeals.org.
Salmon said she anticipates those sites will serve about 100,000 meals over the next two weeks.
On Thursday, Salmon closed schools for two weeks, starting Monday. She said today that she will be talking with superintendents from around the state about the possibilities of remote instruction and extending school closures.
Salmon said daycare centers are currently open and the state is planning to open more this Thursday to provide daycare for the children of hospital staff, police units and other essential personnel who have to come to work during the coronavirus pandemic.
She added that daycare centers are advised not to have groups of more than 10 children and should conduct frequent cleanings.
Salmon said she is talking with the presidents of Maryland universities to possibly use teacher candidates, who would normally be interning at schools if they were still open, to provide services to children while earning hours toward their teacher certifications.
Fran Phillips, deputy secretary of public health services for the Maryland Department of Health, said that Maryland, like other states across the country, is experiencing a shortage of testing kits, as well as the chemicals that laboratories use to process the tests.
She noted that tests for Marylanders are currently being conducted by three major commercial laboratories and the state’s laboratory at Johns Hopkins.
“The test is slow because of this lack of capacity,” she said, adding that other hospitals are working to get approval to conduct their own testing.
Phillips said people should monitor themselves for flu-like symptoms: cough, difficulty breathing and a fever greater than 104 degrees. If someone is displaying those signs, that does not necessarily mean they have been infected with COVID-19, but they must stay home, she said.
People who exhibit those symptoms–especially people over 60 and those with pre-existing health conditions–should monitor their condition and call a doctor if their fever rises or their difficulty breathing worsens, Phillips said.
Phillips added that Maryland is relying in part on the Strategic National Stockpile to get ventilators for people who are acutely ill with a respiratory disease, and that they are beginning to receive shipments from that stockpile.
Hogan said the measures he and his administration are taking will not stop the spread of the coronavirus in Maryland entirely, and people can expect to see deaths and a great number of infected people in the state. But he said the actions will slow the spread of the virus and save the lives of thousands of Marylanders.
He added that he has been in close collaboration with fellow governors and officials at all levels of government to share strategies being implemented across the country.
“We’re all in this together,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if people are Democrats or Republicans, or if they’re in the federal level or state level or local government, every one of us has to work together in this crisis to save the lives of Americans.”
Monday’s press briefing on the lawn of the Governor’s Mansion came days after Hogan announced a series of actions he and his administration were taking to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Among those actions, Hogan’s administration closed public schools for two weeks, activated the Maryland National Guard, prohibited gatherings of more than 250 people, closed cruise ship access to the Port of Baltimore, suspended visitation at state prisons and recommended stricter visitation policies at Maryland hospitals. Hogan also delegated day-to-day operations of all non-essential, non-crisis functions of state government to Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford.
Hogan also announced Sunday that he was shutting down all casinos, racetracks and off-track betting locations in the state, effective Monday.