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Anne Arundel restaurants and bars can open for outdoor dining and businesses with limitations starting at 5 p.m. Friday

Restaurants and bars in Anne Arundel County can open with outdoor dining and select businesses can begin welcoming customers in reduced capacities starting at 5 p.m. Friday, County Executive Steuart Pittman announced Thursday.

The announcement is a deviation from a previous plan, which held the reopening off until Monday. Non-essential retail can operate at a capacity calculated by one person per 150 square feet, and hair salons and barbershops can operate at a capacity calculated by one person per 100 square feet. All institutions that are reopening will have to follow strict social distancing and safety guidelines.

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Pittman made the decision in consultation with county Health Officer Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman and his advisory group, which is made up of county leaders, business owners, and religious leaders. Pittman said he juggled logistical obstacles and safety in making the decision about what is right for the county at this point.

The virus has infected thousands of county residents, killed at least 154 and left more than 60,000 unemployed. Pittman cited improving metrics and an expanding testing capacity as a reason for the shift in his approach:

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“Where we were using that blunt instrument of shut down of everything to combat the virus — because it was the only tool we had — this added testing capacity is allowing us to isolate the virus and win the battle that way,” Pittman said. “That makes it possible for us to do more reopening.”

Restaurants and bars do not need a special permit to allow outdoor dining, Pittman said, they just have to comply with state guidelines for reopening.

“The county Office of Planning and Zoning will authorize outdoor seating for food and beverage service uses as a temporary use for up to 180 days, until or unless the emergency is lifted or revised by Executive Order,” he wrote in a release.

He also announced that starting at 5 p.m. Friday, he is reopening beaches, dog parks, and pavilions, though warned swimmers that water at beaches have not yet been tested.

Gov. Larry Hogan announced Wednesday that local governments could decide whether to open restaurants for outdoor dining, outdoor youth sports, youth day camps and outdoor pools, all at reduced capacity with social distance and safety measures implemented.

In Anne Arundel County, basketball courts and athletic fields for youth skills training only will open at 8 a.m. Monday, but no organized activities will be allowed.

Outdoor pools will receive inspections on a rolling basis starting next Friday and will be allowed to open once they are approved.

Youth camps, also permitted under the governor’s recent order, will be allowed to operate on a scaled-back basis. Traditional camps are canceled, but small camps limited to eight children and two staff members will be allowed. Registration begins June 11.

He did not make any changes to the restrictions on religious facilities, which cannot exceed the 10 person gathering limit. Senior Centers; fitness centers; movie theaters (including “pop-up” drive-in theaters); malls; nail salons; playgrounds; county park visitors centers; county park restrooms; indoor aquatic centers and recreation centers all remain closed at this point.

Annapolis receives $4.25 million in coronavirus funding

Pittman also announced Thursday that the county and the city of Annapolis have come to an agreement for the CARES Act money, of which the county received $101 million. Pittman said a population calculation and an evaluation of the percentage of services provided to city residents by the county was used to determine that the city will receive $4.25 million.

The money comes to the city with the same restrictions it did from the federal government — it can only be used to respond to the coronavirus and can’t be used to make up for any lost revenue.

Pittman said he and Mayor Gavin Buckley will “build back better, together,” and that reopening will take place in lockstep from this point forward. Buckley had bucked the county’s guidelines by allowing one or two people into retail businesses while the county still required curbside pick-up.

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The two leaders have since come back together in their decision on nonessential retail businesses.

The city of Annapolis has seen crowds of unmasked people on recent weekends with nice weather. After crowds were seen on City Dock over Memorial Day weekend, officials warned it could lead to a second wave of virus cases.

Hogan has noted that different jurisdictions are experiencing the coronavirus pandemic with different severity. Some of central Maryland’s counties, like Prince George’s and Montgomery, are still experiencing metrics above the state average.

In neighboring Baltimore City, Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young said restaurants could begin outdoor dining at 5 p.m. Friday if they are already permitted to do so. Any restaurant that is not currently permitted for outdoor dining can begin applying Monday.

Though he has allowed restaurants the new permission, he’s said that outdoor pools remain closed for at least two weeks.

Staff writer Brooks DuBose contributed reporting.

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