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Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties to adopt statewide guidelines for lifting coronavirus restrictions

The leaders of Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties announced Thursday they will lift several more coronavirus-related restrictions, effective at 5 p.m. Friday, allowing nonessential businesses to reopen.

It’s the first time the two counties have adopted Gov. Larry Hogan’s reopening guidelines as they take effect. Previously, the two counties had waited to implement reopening.

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The orders will allow tattoo and massage parlors, tanning and nail salons, and many other nonessential businesses to serve customers beginning this weekend — but only by appointment and at no more than 50% capacity.

On Wednesday, Hogan, a Republican, announced the state is going to begin the second stage of his three-phase reopening plan, outlined in his “Maryland Strong Roadmap for Recovery.”

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Moving forward, Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. said his county will adopt Hogan’s reopening decisions as he announces them. In a statement, Olszewski, a Democrat, said the county wants to make it easier for residents and businesses to know what’s allowed.

“The state’s patchwork approach to reopening has confused residents, put businesses on an unequal playing field, and limited the impact of an individual jurisdiction’s public health efforts," Olszewski said. “By aligning with the state, Baltimore County is providing clarity for our residents — though we must be clear that these new steps do not mean we can return to life as we knew it before COVID-19."

Olszewski added: ”We will reserve the right to continue to monitor the data, and if we see a significant increase [in cases] we will take action to make sure our residents are safe."

Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman also will allow those same businesses to reopen, but with one small difference — the county will issue its own health guidance for businesses Friday. Pittman also warned the coronavirus was still a risk.

“With new cases averaging over 80 per day, the only way to make this work is strict adherence to face coverings, social distancing, and best practices,” he said. "We ask our residents and our businesses to continue to do their part.”

Hogan’s order also allows government agencies to begin returning to more normal operations beginning Monday. Any government building with an expected capacity of more than 10 people must post social distancing guidelines and provide a place for employees and visitors to wash their hands.

Outdoor pools; outdoor dining at bars and restaurants; golf courses and driving ranges; outdoor archery and shooting ranges; marinas and watercraft rentals; campgrounds; horse boarding and riding facilities; drive-in movie theaters; outdoor day camps and tour boats were allowed to resume operations under previous orders.

Maryland officials reported Thursday the state has 55,858 total cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Statewide, 2,546 people have died due to the infection or complications from it.

Olszewski said it would be “much more helpful” if the state gave counties more than two days of notice before decisions are made on restrictions. The county was “fortunately” prepared to enact outdoor dining, he said, because the county was “proactively planning for that."

”We would welcome additional time and additional collaboration and additional conversations because we want to be a part of the reopening conversation," Olszewski said. “What we don’t want to have is confusion among our residents and businesses.”

The former teacher also said parents are reaching out to the county about access to child care. Olszewski said he’s “thinking about the single parent who’s being called into work on Friday” because “there really hasn’t been a lot of clarity on child care openings.”

Leaders in Carroll, Harford and Howard counties said Wednesday they planned to adopt Hogan’s recommendations when they take effect Friday. Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young said he’ll announce a decision Friday.

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Baltimore Sun Media Group reporter Olivia Sanchez contributed to this article.

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