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Baltimore County will ease restrictions on retail stores, haircutting businesses Friday

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski announced that he'll ease restrictions on retail store businesses and will reopen at 9 a.m. Friday.

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. announced Thursday that some restrictions will be lifted on retail stores, barber shops and hair salons beginning at 9 a.m. Friday.

Baltimore County is still prohibiting indoor and outdoor gatherings with more than 10 people at restaurants, businesses, churches and other places where people gather, Olszewski said Thursday. Religious institutions still can hold drive-through or drive-in services.

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Retail stores may reopen for in-store business, but the establishments can only be filled with 10 people, including staff. Olszewski said this will apply to retail establishments that were considered nonessential under Maryland’s previous “stay-at-home” order.

Shopping malls will remain closed except for retail establishments that can be accessed from the outside, and Olszewski is still encouraging residents to choose curbside pickup and delivery. Barber shops and hair salons, meanwhile, may reopen as long as the businesses only allow 10 people inside, including staff. The hair-cutting businesses can operate by appointment only and with appropriate health and safety guidelines.

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Olszewski said his newly signed executive order does not include the reopening of other personal services, such as nail salons, massage parlors and tattoo shops, which remain closed until further notice. He expressed confidence in the partial reopening due to “significant progress” in expanding the county’s access to more testing and personal protective equipment for nursing homes, where the coronavirus has largely affected residents.

“We are confident these steps can be taken in a careful way that protects all customers and staff," he said. “I believe this is in the best interests of Baltimore County.”

The Democrat’s announcement comes a week after Gov. Larry Hogan enacted a “Safer at Home” advisory, which allows manufacturing, retail, haircuts and worship services to resume with limitations. Olszewski has expressed concerns that the Baltimore-region isn’t ready to relax certain restrictions amid the pandemic despite the Republican governor’s orders.

Following Olszewski’s announcement, Baltimore County Council voted 6-1 to extend the emergency powers that allows Olszewski to impose restrictions on residents, businesses and religious gatherings.

Baltimore County Councilman Wade Kach and the council’s other Republican members commended Olszewski for taking “a step in the right direction” by easing restrictions. Kach was “disappointed" churches remain “essentially closed,” and Councilman David Marks said as many as 1,000 residents have emailed him in opposition to the emergency measures.

Michele Clifton owns the Image Is Salon in Timonium, where she employs 40 people. Calling recent events “a complete rollercoaster,” Clifton said her team was ready to return to work with at least 11 stylists after Hogan lifted his stay at home order last week. But those plans were paused when Olszewski said salons would remain closed in Baltimore County.

Clifton said Olszewski’s reopening order is “so extremely limited” that she expects only a quarter of her employees will be able to work.

“My salon has been closed for two months and we’re hundreds of thousands of dollars down in revenue,” she said. “As small business owners, it’s been really difficult on us and so many small businesses are not going to be able to make it. We just want to be given the option to operate close to what we were before as long as we are following all of the safety protocols.”

Olszewski continued to urge residents and visitors to Baltimore County to stay home unless they are traveling to work or medical appointments, shopping for groceries or other retail goods, or traveling to outdoor recreational opportunities. Older and more vulnerable residents are strongly advised to continue staying home as much as possible, he said.

Residents and visitors should practice physical distancing and wear masks in public, and they should frequently wash their hands and sanitize high-touch areas.

Olszewski stressed that employers in the county should continue to encourage telework for their employees when possible, and individuals who can work from home should continue to do so.

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