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The new coronavirus, known as COVID-19, has disrupted daily life across Maryland and the United States. And the situation is changing quickly — every day, and sometimes every hour. Here are the key things you need to know about the situation. Links throughout have been made accessible to all readers without a subscription.
NUMBER OF CASES: The number of Marylanders who test positive is growing every day. As of July 1, Maryland has 67,918 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 3,077 people have died. Check here for updates on the biggest stories every day. For up-to-the-minute case and death totals throughout the world, in the United States and in specific states, click here.
Working and getting out
STAY-AT-HOME ORDER LIFTED: Gov. Larry Hogan lifted Maryland’s stay-at-home order effective at 5 p.m. Friday, May 15. The Republican governor is replacing the order with a “Safer at Home” advisory that will not be enforced by the rule of law. It allows manufacturing, retail, haircuts and worship services to resume with limitations.
BUSINESSES THAT MUST REMAIN CLOSED: Gov. Larry Hogan on March 23 ordered all nonessential businesses to be closed, the latest restriction intended to fight the spread of coronavirus. Even as the stay-at-home order is lifted, businesses deemed nonessential still must remain closed, though what’s categorized as nonessential has changed slightly.
RETAIL ALLOWED TO REOPEN: As part of phase one of Maryland’s recovery plan, manufacturing and retail stores may reopen at up to 50% capacity with curbside service and delivery encouraged. Such retailers include clothing and shoe sellers, pet groomers, car washes, art galleries and bookstores. Barbershops and hair salons also may open with up to 50% capacity, and by appointment only.
LARGE GATHERINGS BAN: Hogan issued an executive order limiting gatherings to 10 people, following guidance from the federal government. This is still in place even with the stay-at-home order lifted. State police and local law enforcement agencies said they were prepared to arrest those who deliberately flout the directives.
REOPENING PLAN: Hogan has outlined a three-stage plan for gradually reopening the state. The plan is based on four “building blocks” that are precursors to restarting the economy: ramping up testing capacity, instituting contact tracing, increasing the supply of personal protective gear and readying hospitals for a surge in patients that could otherwise overload the system. Hogan said the state is making progress in all four areas.
CANCELED EVENTS: Due to the state-imposed restrictions, most major events in the Baltimore area have been canceled, including the popular Mount Vernon Flower Mart and the Baltimore Farmers’ market. Most venues, like museums, libraries, and theaters, have also closed.
RELIGIOUS SERVICES: Under phase one of the reopening plan, churches and houses of worship may begin to hold religious services at up to 50% of capacity, with outdoor services encouraged.
Recreation, eating and shopping
PARKS REMAIN OPEN: Officials have said it’s safe to go outside, but that people should exercise caution and avoid crowds and playground equipment. State parks and parks run by local governments in the Baltimore area remain open, though many parks and rec centers have been closed and organized activities have been canceled.
GROCERY STORES: Grocery stores and big box stores are considered essential businesses. But to protect older people and those with underlying health conditions, some grocery chains have set up special shopping hours.
GYMS, THEATERS, ENTERTAINMENT VENUES CLOSED: Gyms and theaters were shut down the same day Hogan ordered all restaurants and bars closed. Many gyms, however, have turned to virtual workouts to keep their clients fit during the pandemic.
CASINOS: The state’s casinos, racetracks and off-track betting parlors were among the first businesses to be closed in the state.
MALLS CLOSED: Shutting the malls became increasingly inevitable as at least three in the state ― including the sprawling Arundel Mills ― had previously closed, as had anchor and specialty stores across the country.
PUBLIC SCHOOLS SHUT DOWN THROUGH THE END OF THE ACADEMIC YEAR: Maryland State School Superintendent Karen Salmon initially ordered schools closed for two weeks, through March 27, which was then extended. On May 6, Salmon announced public school students will not return to classrooms for the rest of the academic year, making it one of the last states in the nation to make the call during the coronavirus pandemic.
COLLEGES MOVE TO ONLINE LEARNING: The University System of Maryland moved all undergraduate classes to online-only for the rest of the semester, and private colleges and universities in the area have done the same.
MEALS FOR STUDENTS: Baltimore-area school districts, governments and nonprofits will supply free meals to students in need while schools are closed. Most sites are providing grab-and-go meals for students 18 and under, or for students with disabilities who are older than 18.
CHILD CARE CLOSED: Maryland has ordered all child care closed to all but the children of essential workers. There are a limited number of recently announced state-funded child care programs that are reserved for the children of health care workers, first responders and others regarded as essential. There are 1,200 such slots statewide. The Y in Central Maryland is opening its 11 family centers to provide child care for hundreds of children of first responders and front-line health care workers.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU’RE SICK: Symptoms of coronavirus include a dry cough, fever, aches and pains, and fatigue. But for most of us who get sick, the advice for treatment, save for the most severe cases, is the same as for a cold or the flu: rest, fluids and chicken soup. If you suspect you have it, don’t rush off to the emergency room or even go to a doctor. Call your doctor, a nearby clinic or the local health department instead when symptoms start to ask for advice.
GETTING TESTED: If you suspect you have the coronavirus, it will probably be difficult to get a test. The shortage of testing kits — and the lag time between taking the tests and getting the results — has alarmed and frustrated dozens of Marylanders, many who have tried to get themselves or their loved ones swabbed for the coronavirus to no avail or who have been cast into states of uncertainty.
MORE HOSPITAL BEDS: Hogan plans to add 6,000 hospital beds in the state to accommodate an anticipated surge in patients needing treatment due to the coronavirus. For many hospitals, that means canceling surgeries and moving patients and their procedures to outpatient facilities. But the state is also opening a field hospital at the Baltimore Convention Center and the adjacent city-owned Hilton Hotel, as well as re-opening the Laurel Regional Hospital.
SMALL BUSINESS RELIEF: A state program of more than $175 million will provide businesses with grants, loans and other relief to help pay workers, suppliers, landlords and other expenses during the coronavirus pandemic.
COMPANIES HIRING: As layoffs continue to mount at small businesses and in the airline, hotel and hospitality industries, other employers are busier than ever meeting demands sparked by the coronavirus crisis. And they need more workers to keep up. Companies like Amazon, grocers and big-box stores are hiring and offering bonuses for hourly employees
HOW TO HELP:As the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to lurch the world to a halt, Gov. Larry Hogan’s office on service and volunteerism has compiled a list of civic-minded ways Marylanders can help during the outbreak.
SHARE YOUR STORY: To document the widespread impact of COVID-19 in Maryland, we are making direct appeals to readers to be a part of our coverage. Responses to our prompts supplement other reporting methods, including interviews and observations from the field, which continue with proper precautions.