ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland continues to make strides in its fight against the coronavirus pandemic, with low positivity rates and high testing numbers, but Gov. Larry Hogan warned Wednesday that the crisis is not over.
Hogan said that while nationally there have been reported spikes in cases, Maryland has avoided that trend, but data shows coronavirus is spreading rapidly among young people. He warned that young people are not bulletproof and need to continue to be vigilant for the sake of the state's recovery.
Hogan delivered his remarks during a Board of Public Works meeting to discuss the coming fiscal year. Hogan met with state comptroller Peter Franchot and treasurer Nancy Kopp to discuss options for the state budget.
Hogan described fighting on two fronts, the health crisis and financial crisis.
Kopp said she anticipates the financial crisis will be long-lasting, but was optimistic.
"By the end of this year we will have a balanced budget," she said.
- All of Maryland in Stage 2 of reopening
- State of Emergency in effect
- Face coverings required over the age of 9 inside essential businesses
- Schools closed through end of academic year
- Mortgage lenders prohibited from initiating foreclosure process, 90 day deferral period for Marylanders where no negative information will be reported to credit bureaus
Emergency Order Extended
Gov. Larry Hogan extended an emergency order prohibiting utility companies from shutting off or charging late fees for residential services including electricity, water, phone and Internet.
The order was extended Tuesday until Aug. 1.
The news comes a few days after Hogan approved funds to help renters avoid evictions. On Friday, Hogan announced a commitment of $30 million in new funding to prevent evictions.
The impacts of the coronavirus continue to be felt across the country, but statewide, Hogan said Maryland has tested 8.9% of the population, and the state now has a new low positivity rate of 4.81%.
On Thursday, June 25, Maryland health officials reported 15 additional deaths as a result of the coronavirus, bringing the state's total to 3,001 lives lost.
Hogan issued a statement saying that while Maryland has made tremendous strides in the fight against the coronavirus, the virus is still active and there is still work to be done. His full statement is below:
"While yesterday the United States saw a record number of COVID-19 cases, in Maryland, our key health metrics continue to trend in a positive direction. Our daily positivity rate reached a new low of 4.38%, and our seven-day positivity rate fell to 5.05%. Our total current hospitalizations have dropped to 511, their lowest level in 83 days. We have now conducted more than 600,000 tests, and have nearly 200 testing sites available across the state.
"As we continue to safely reopen, it is important to remember that this crisis is still not behind us. More than 65,000 Marylanders have been infected, and more than 3,000 Marylanders have now lost their lives to this deadly virus. We mourn each and every loss.
"Because of our early and aggressive actions, Maryland is better positioned for an economic comeback than nearly every other state in America. Our unemployment rate is more than one-third better than the national average. We have led, and will continue to lead, on the road to economic recovery.
"Now more than ever, as we begin to come into contact with more people, we must all continue to remain vigilant. Our health and economic recovery depends on all of us continuing to exercise personal responsibility in order to keep ourselves, our family members, our neighbors, and our coworkers safe. We encourage all Marylanders to get tested, wear a mask, and practice physical distancing.
"Throughout this crisis, Marylanders have been strong, resilient, and they have never lost hope. And now, while we still have miles to go on our road to recovery, I have no doubt that the people of our great state will continue setting an example for the rest of the nation."
Indoor gyms and boutique fitness studios, casinos, arcades, and malls have begun reopening in Maryland under Phase 2 of the state's reopening guidelines. The governor also encouraged school systems to organize safe, outdoor graduation ceremonies with capacity restrictions and social distancing guidelines in place.
Montgomery and Prince George's Counties also moved into Phase 2 of their reopening plans. The two counties with the highest number of cases in Maryland had delayed moving into Phase 2 because of high positivity rates. All of Maryland is now in Phase 2 of reopening.
The state has completed 583,091 coronavirus tests, and the statewide positivity rate has dropped to 5.06%.
In total, health officials say there are 65,007 confirmed coronavirus cases in the state.
Under Stage 2, these industries reopened:
- Specialty vendors
- Financial institutions
- Tech firms
- Auto dealers
- Insurance agencies
- Nail/tanning salons (50% capacity, appointment only)
In the last 50 days, Maryland increased its testing capacity by 429%. When coronavirus first touched Maryland in March, the state could test 50 people per day. Now, 6.4% of the state's population has been tested, with 120 testing sites available across the state. The state is adding multiple high-volume testing sites across Baltimore City, including at the Baltimore Convention Center, in anticipation of an increased need for testing following mass gatherings at recent protests.
Hogan encouraged all businesses that reopen to take the Maryland Strong: Back to Business pledge to let customers know they are following recommended guidelines to keep Marylanders safe.
"I recognize the need to balance our economic model with the harm reduction model, but let's be very clear, the virus is still out there, and this battle is not yet over," Hogan said. "As we continue to battle this deadly virus, we are also fighting to protect and improve the health of small businesses who have been struggling and the thousands of Marylanders not working and struggling to make ends meet."
Hogan emphasized his ongoing mantra that just because something is open doesn't mean you must go or participate. The governor encouraged Marylanders to operate with caution and to continue staying at home if you can.
Future of Schools
Maryland Public Schools have released a first look at what students returning to classrooms could look like post coronavirus. The state's 54-page "Recovery Plan for Education" is meant to be a baseline resource for school districts to begin creating their own plans for reopening, according to State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon. It includes options ranging from students only being in the classroom one day a week while continuing distance learning to an A/B schedule with half the student in school, half at home and rotating weekly.
"Remote learning cannot replace students’ experiences with their teachers, administrators, and support staff," Salmon said. "We must all unite in our efforts to maintain equitable learning opportunities and safely return students to their schools."
Schools in Maryland have been closed since March 16, and will remain closed through the 2019-2020 academic year.
Marylanders are still encouraged to practice social distancing while participating in outdoor activities. Maryland State Parks and beaches will reopen for those to enjoy socially distant walks.
School closures and distance learning
Maryland schools are to remain closed with distance learning for the rest of the academic school year, State Superintendent of Education Dr. Karen Salmon announced on May 5.
Originally, schools were closed until May 15. Distance learning and online curriculum will continue, with the state "exploring options" for summer school learning.
Maryland announced April 17 that the state is working on delivering $275M in federal funds to local school systems to help close gaps with online learning and provide additional resources.
“With regards to the remainder of the school year and the summer, we will use this time to examine every option, and continue to develop a long-term plan for recovery," Salmon said on April 17.
Gov. Larry Hogan announced that the state and local superintendents are currently working through a number of scenarios depending on when students and educators can reenter school buildings for next year.
Local high schools are establishing 'creative alternatives' to commencements for HS seniors, but ultimately have to follow the discretion and rules of the state.
Maryland's Recovery & Reopening Plan
Governor Hogan announced the four building blocks that will be necessary to begin the state’s recovery process:
- Expanding testing capacity (tests purchased from South Korea)
- Increasing hospital surge capacity (medical tents have gone up, Laurel Medical Center reopened and Baltimore convention center to be converted to field hospital)
- Ramping up the supply of PPE
- Building a robust contact tracing operation
Governor Hogan announced a three-stage reopening plan for the state under his Roadmap to Recovery. The first stage would lift the stay at home orders and allow recreational activities to resume
Here's a breakdown of the three-stage recovery plan:
Stage 1: Maryland will lift the stay at home order and allow the reopening of many small businesses. Other community activities that are low risk -- like recreational fishing and elective surgeries -- will resume. Local governments like individual counties can have the flexibility to open up other things, such as parks and playgrounds and libraries with safety protocols in place.
Stage 2: Will occur if there is no spike in deaths or sustained spike for ICU cases, as well as no additional significant community transmissions. This would include even more businesses reopening, and non-essential workers who can't rely on teleworking returning back to their jobs.
There would still be limits on social gatherings, but transit schedules like the Metro would return to normal. Indoor religious gatherings would be allowed with limited capacity, and restaurants and bars would be able to reopen with some safety protocols.
Stage 3: More "high-risk" activities like large social gatherings and high-capacity bars/restaurants would be allowed to open, loosening up restrictions on visits to other places like nursing homes and entertainment venues. Large scale religious gatherings would be allowed as well.
One of the requirements to start Stage 1 is a 14-day decline in reported cases. You can see the new cases per day in the graph below.
While the state has to see more of a continued trend in downward cases before it can begin the recovery plan, Gov. Hogan said he was hopeful of a soon start date thanks to aggressive actions from Marylanders
"The recovery plan we have been developing over many weeks has four building blocks that must be solidly in place before the lifting of restrictions: expanding our testing capacity, increasing hospital surge capacity, an increased supply of PPE, and a robust contact tracing operation," Hogan said.
New Tests Received From S. Korea
Gov. Larry Hogan negotiated with suppliers in South Korea to obtain a half-million coronavirus tests, according to officials. The move comes after President Donald Trump last week put the burden on states and their governors to independently obtain more medical supplies during the coronavirus pandemic instead of relying on federal help.
"The No. 1 problem facing us is lack of testing," Hogan told The New York Times. "Luckily, we had a very strong relationship with Korea. But it should not have been this difficult."
Unemployment Numbers In Maryland
Since the launch of the new unemployment website on April 24, more than 245,000 accounts have been activated and over 100,000 new claims have been filed.
State officials said that Maryland is now activating 33 accounts per minute and filing 780 claims per hour.
"The people of Maryland deserve better and the buck stops with me. I am going to make sure that they do whatever it takes to get it straight so that every Marylander gets every single penny of the financial assistance they deserve," Hogan said.
As of June 10, Gov. Hogan said that Maryland's unemployment rate is the eighth lowest in the nation.
Laurel Hospital Reopening
Hogan announced the reopening of the previously closed Laurel Hospital as the new Laurel Medical Center. Prince George’s County has the highest concentration of coronavirus cases in the state.
The renovated hospital is aiming to provide an additional 135 beds including 35 intensive care beds to treat coronavirus patients. It will be staffed by 400 contracted medical professionals and was opened months before originally planned, Hogan said.
The hospital first opened in 1978, which Hogan said was the year his father was elected as the Prince George’s County executive.
“Over the years, this facility helped save many lives before it was downsized and downgraded it,” Hogan said. ” But now with its rebirth, it is once again going to help us save lives, not just here in Prince George’s County, but throughout the National Capital Region.”
The state also opened the first beds at Adventist Fort Washington Medical Center in Prince George’s County and are adding additional beds, including ICU beds, there and at UM Prince George’s Hospital Center in Cheverly.
Maryland PPE Grant For Businesses
Hogan announced that 20 Maryland companies will help make personal protective equipment (PPE) as part of a grant system that the state will be running. More than 200 companies applied for the grant program.
Through the Maryland COVID-19 Emergency Relief Manufacturing Fund administered by the Maryland Department of Commerce, companies are receiving grants of up to $100,000 to manufacture everything ranging from face shields, gowns, N-95 masks, and even respirator parts to battery packs for ventilators.
“Ramping up our supply of PPE is a critical building block in our state’s recovery plan, and we are taking an all-hands-on-deck approach to secure these resources for our front line workers,” said Hogan. “I want to thank and commend the local businesses who have shifted their operations and increased production to help us save lives and flatten the curve.”
Men Seeking Treatment for COVID-19
As the numbers come in and as Prince George’s County collects more data, County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said they are noticing men, in particular, are succumbing to the coronavirus, and that it may be due to men waiting too late to get treatment.
“We’re very concerned that men have been waiting. Dr. Carter tells me that we ought to really send home the message that if you’re having symptoms do not wait, because we were so distressed to learn that at least a couple of our residents died at home last week, because they waited too late to seek medical treatment,” Alsobrooks said.
The county announced that residents can now text 911 if they are unable to speak, but they don’t want people waiting to seek treatment if they think they are sick or if they have the virus.
Mandatory Face Coverings
Gov. Hogan has also ordered face coverings to be worn for all those over the age of 9 when going out to places like grocery stores, in public transit and other retail shops such as pharmacies, liquor stores or take-out restaurants.
Here's what Gov. Hogan defines as necessary face coverings, and where and who needs to wear them.
New Testing and PPE Decontamination Initiatives
Maryland announced a $2.5M investment to the University of Maryland School of Medicine on April 10, increasing resources to the school and letting their lab run up to 20,000 tests per day.
Gov. Hogan also announced on April 10 a new decontamination site for PPE at Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI) The site will give the state the ability to clean and sterilize up to 80,000 N95 respirator masks per day.
New Strike Team Activated
Gov. Hogan announced on April 7 new strike teams to help provide support to overburdened facilities. The strike teams are composed of National Guard, representatives from local and state health departments, and hospital systems.
Maryland is among the first in the nation to create strike teams.
There will be three different types of strike teams: testing teams, assistance teams to determine equipment and triage needs for residents, and clinical teams to include doctors, nurses, to provide care and avoid unnecessary transport to hospitals.
On April 10, Gov. Hogan announced the strike teams have already responded to nine nursing homes in the state, as well as 15 group homes to "medically fragile children."
State Budget Outlook
Maryland is projecting a revenue loss of up to $2.8 billion for fiscal year 2020, Gov. Hogan announced on April 10. An immediate budget freeze on all state spending across all agencies has been enacted, as well as a state hiring freeze.
During an April 10 press conference, Hogan said the state will spend much, if not all, of the Rainy Day Fund.
Outbreaks At Nursing Homes
As more outbreaks are popping up around Maryland nursing homes, Hogan on April 5 announced that more actions to protect residents and staff will be in place.
Effective immediately, facilities are required to direct all staff who interact with residents to wear personal protective equipment, create separate observation and isolation areas for residents and expedite all testing through the Maryland State Public Health Laboratory.
Maryland health officials announced a coronavirus outbreak at a nursing home in Mount Airy as a total of 99 residents and staff have tested positive, five of which have died.
There are 81 nursing homes in the state with at least one confirmed COVID-19 case.
"It took nearly three weeks for the National Capital Region to go from 0 to 1,000 cases of COVID-19," Hogan said. "It took three days for the region to go from 1,000 to 2,000 cases in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia. This is a rapidly evolving and escalating emergency, which is now surrounding the nation’s capital."
Hogan also signed an executive order that prohibits mortgage lenders from initiating the foreclosure process and grants Marylanders a 90-day deferral period where no late fees are charged, and no negative information will be reported to credit bureaus. The order also stops cars, trucks and mobile homes from being repossessed at that time.
Child Care And Schools
All Maryland child care providers, except those serving essential personnel, have been closed.
“During this State of Emergency, child care programs have been established by the State to serve only designated essential personnel,” State Schools Superintendent Dr. Karen Salmon said in a news release.
On April 17, Dr.Salmon said the state is continuing to provide childcare to over 25,000 essential workers in the state.
The programs are being provided at no cost to designated essential personnel.
Eligible programs can be found on the Maryland State Department of Education website, or through a free referral hotline called LOCATE: 877-261-0060.
Federal Disaster Declaration Requested
Hogan asked that any Marylanders who were in New York City or the Tristate area self-quarantine for at least 14 days.
Hogan said the state requested a Presidential Disaster Declaration to help fund future efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19. The governor said several programs and community initiatives have also been put in place to help residents.
Meals For Those In Need
Maryland now has $4 million in federal funding to provide at-home meals to older adults during the pandemic, Hogan said. Maryland will also be the first state to provide free telephonic service to check-in calls every day for seniors to make sure they are OK.
This comes after the state reported the fourth death connected to a coronavirus diagnosis. The Maryland Department of Health says it was a Prince George's County resident in his 60s who suffered from underlying medical conditions.
Some Businesses Ordered To Close
Hogan has issued an executive order to close all non-essential businesses and facilities in the state to help save lives from the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. Hogan said his decision to shut down businesses is in an effort to limit day-to-day interactions and to encourage social distancing.
The types of businesses that remain open include health care, food, energy, public works, defense, law enforcement, transportation, financial services, water, and waste.
Maryland has launched efforts to support small businesses through the coronavirus pandemic. Hogan announced several state-funded programs aimed at helping unemployed residents and business owners trying to retain their employees and keep their businesses afloat, including a $175 million business relief program, a COVID-19 Aversion Plan, a $50-million relief grant fund, and a $5 million fund to businesses that provide masks or essential tools for health workers.
The state received designation from the U.S. Small Business Administration for its Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, which provides low-interest federal disaster loans for small businesses impacted by the coronavirus. Businesses can apply here.
All public transportation is shut down except for essential workers. The Maryland Department of Transportation is restricting access to the BWI Terminal to only ticketed passengers and airport employees, Hogan said.
"I ask that we continue to pray for each other, for our state, and for our nation as we face this crisis together," Hogan said in a statement. "We must use every possible resource at every level of government to save lives and keep people safe."
Hogan's executive order allows trucks to exceed their weight limit to better provide supplies to affected areas.
Hogan also postponed the upcoming April 28 primary until June 2 in response to the coronavirus. The state said they expect to come up with a plan for the primary by April 3, Hogan said. However, the special election to fill the late Rep. Elijah Cummings' seat is still moving forward as planned.
Mail-in ballots for Marylanders are encouraged as limited in-person polling options will be available, Gov. Hogan said April 10.
"Our ultimate goal must be to do everything possible to ensure that the voice of every Marylander is heard in a safe and secure manner," Hogan said..
Hogan shared plans to re-purpose vehicle emissions sites as coronavirus testing sites. He also continued to urge residents to avoid unnecessary travel, stay home if they feel sick, and share with neighbors to cut down on panic buying.
Ocean City has also been shut down its beach and boardwalk to help contribute to social distancing and preventing the spread of the deadly virus.
The state plans to continue to follow all CDC guidelines of prohibiting any social events over 10 people.
Should the need require it, the measures are going to be strictly enforced with the help of 250 Maryland State troopers ready for deployment, Hogan said.
"We can't afford to wait to take actions," Hogan said. "If we do not take them today, it will be too late."
The governor has already activated 400 Army and Air National Guard members, with a total of 1,000 National Guards activated and 1,200 members ready to be activated.
Hogan also signed an Executive Order to conduct the assessment to open closed hospitals and to provide 6,000 additional beds to meet the demand for the potential of hospital overcrowding. Hogan hopes at least 1,400 beds are made available by early April.
State Of Emergency Issued
A force of 5,000 Maryland Medical Reserve Corps members are also activated. Any practitioner with a valid license from another state, or an expired Maryland license are able to practice during this time, Hogan said.
"We know many individuals will be out of work and state and federal leaders are working to figure it out," Hogan said.
During the State of Emergency, electrical, gas, water, cable, and telephone companies are prohibited from issuing late fees to Maryland residents. Evictions of any tenants are also prohibited. Grocery stores, pharmacies and essential stores must remain open, Hogan said.
The state is providing three meals a day and a snack to students who need it while schools are closed. There are 138 distribution centers open.
Maryland state employees are also required to telework due to coronavirus and access to state buildings, including the State House, which are restricted.
An infant as young as 10 months old has been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Maryland.
What precautions should you take?
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Wear a mask if you have to make an essential trip outside
- Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol if soap and water are unavailable.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
Reasons to leave your home under stay-at-home order:
- Grocery store trips
- Medical visits or trips to the pharmacy
- Travel to your essential job
- Exercise such as walks, hikes or bike rides
Commonly reported symptoms of COVID-19 infection include:
- Shortness of breath
If you are sick or suspect you are infected, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends taking the followings steps:
- Stay home except to get medical care
- Avoid public areas, including work or school
- Avoid public transportation
- Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home
- Contact your doctor via telemedicine for more guidance
Check the status of the virus in your state with your state health department's websites by tapping below: