After a week of Maryland recording 1,000 or more new coronavirus cases daily and an increase of hospitalizations, Gov. Larry Hogan announced tightened restrictions Tuesday on restaurants and continued to discourage large family gatherings and parties.
The Republican governor said stronger restrictions were required because the state has crossed into the “danger zone” and that too many people are letting their guards down because of “COVID fatigue.”
“I just want to remind the people of Maryland that we have come too far and the stakes are too high. This virus does not care if you’re tired of it,” Hogan said during a State House news conference. “It does not care if you have holiday plans. It doesn’t care who you voted for. And it will not let us move on just because we all desperately want to get back to our normal pre-COVID lives.”
Here’s what you need to know:
How crowded will restaurants be now?
Under the governor’s order, restaurants must scale back from 75% capacity to 50% for indoor dining starting at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
I’m thinking of having all my family over for Thanksgiving. What should I do?
Hogan said indoor gatherings of more than 25 people are “strongly” discouraged.
Contact tracing has shown family gatherings and house parties were frequent activities of those who’ve fallen ill, he said.
What about if I have to travel for the holiday?
The state advised Marylanders against traveling to any state with a positivity rate of more than 10% or a new case rate greater than 20 cases per 100,000 people.
Anyone who travels to or returns from those high-infection states should get tested when they get to Maryland and quarantine until they receive their results. The advisory went into effect immediately.
“You should immediately cancel or postpone travel to any of these states with spiking metrics,” Hogan said.
According to the state’s methodology listed in the order, as of the latest data available Tuesday night, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Vermont and Washington state are exempt from the travel advisory due to their metrics.
Neighboring states Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia, along with Washington, D.C., are also exempt from the recommendation.
Should I keep working from home?
If you’re able to work from home, Hogan said people should continue to do so. Additionally, he ordered most state workers back to telework.
Are the restrictions the same in every county?
No. Local leaders are able to dictate if they would like to enable stricter restrictions in their county.
The Montgomery County Council did just that on Tuesday, approving Democratic County Executive Marc Elrich’s order limiting gatherings — including at stores, indoor restaurants and fitness centers — to 25% of capacity.
And Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young has already announced plans to scale back restaurant capacity to 25% and institute a 11 p.m. closing time starting Thursday. Stores, gyms, malls, theaters and places of worship also will be restricted to 25% capacity in the city.
I don’t understand why we have more restrictions. What changed?
Maryland’s positivity rate is steadily increasing, up to a seven-day average Tuesday of 5.24%. Johns Hopkins, which also tracks positivity rates but uses a different calculation, reported Maryland’s positivity rate at 4.21%.
The state’s two-week average of new daily cases also reached new heights Tuesday for the second straight day, climbing to 1,069 from the 600s a little over two weeks ago.
Maryland reported 761 people hospitalized with virus-related complications Tuesday, up 54 from Monday, and hitting the highest level since June. Hospitalizations have soared since late September, when they were as low as 281 Sept. 20.
Among those hospitalized, 176 needed intensive care, eight more than Monday. ICU hospitalizations have more than doubled since Sept. 20, when 68 people needed ICU care.
Do I have to keep wearing a mask?
Yes. Hogan’s executive order mandating masks to be worn both indoors and outdoors is still in effect.
Are hospitals prepared if cases keep rising?
State health officials updated their plans for how to handle a surge of sick patients needing hospital care, ensuring that hospitals maintain the flexibility to transfer patients to temporary sites set up at the Baltimore Convention Center Field Hospital, the former Laurel Regional Hospital and Adventist Takoma Park Hospital.
When will these restrictions end?
Dr. Ted Delbridge, head of the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems, warned that the winter months could be some of the worst for the virus.
“We’re concerned that December, January and February are going to be the peak times and dependent on the mitigating steps that the public takes — things like wearing a mask and keeping a distance,” Delbridge said.
Baltimore Sun reporters Pamela Wood, Jeff Barker and Ben Leonard contributed to this article.