Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. said the county will align with the state and move into Stage Three of the coronavirus recovery plan announced by the governor, which allows theaters to reopen and retail and religious facilities to expand indoor capacity.
Gov. Larry Hogan announced Tuesday that every jurisdiction in Maryland could allow all businesses to reopen, including theaters, and increase the number of people allowed at indoor events such such as worship services.
Hogan’s order, which goes into effect at 5 p.m. Friday, gives local jurisdictions the authority to be more restrictive than the state. Olszewski, a Democrat, said in a statement Wednesday the county is aligning with Hogan’s order to provide clarity to residents, but he added “these steps do not mean we can let our guard down.”
“This dangerous disease is still with us and I urge all our residents and businesses to continue to follow the best public health guidance,” Olszewski said in a statement. “Businesses found to be violating face-covering or social distancing mandates will be held accountable.”
Under the Republican governor’s latest orders, indoor theaters may operate up to 50% capacity or 100 people, whichever is lower. Outdoor entertainment venues may operate up to 50% capacity or 250 people, whichever is lower.
All retail establishments and religious facilities may operate up to 75% capacity beginning Friday evening, an increase from 50%. Under the state order, indoor dining at food service establishments remains limited up to 50% capacity.
Baltimore County’s positivity rate has remained below the World Health Organization-recommended 5% since July 7, and is currently 4.4% — down substantially since late May, Olszewski said.
Baltimore County has recorded 15,665 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began — the third-highest number among Maryland jurisdictions, behind Prince George’s and Montgomery counties.
But Olszewski highlighted that the county’s case rate is 1,800 cases per 100,000 residents — 35% lower than Prince George’s County, 22% lower than Baltimore City, and 2% lower than Montgomery County.
Olszewski’s announcement comes hours after Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young said the city isn’t ready to move into Stage Three of Hogan’s plan, though he planned to loosen restrictions in some areas, including restaurants.
Officials in Harford and Howard counties said Tuesday that they would follow the state’s plan, while leaders in Anne Arundel and Carroll counties said they aimed to announce a decision by Thursday.