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Maryland Gov. Hogan issues new restrictions on nonessential travel to fight coronavirus spread during holidays

The governor issue an emergency order which requires limiting travel to essential travel only, Hogan announces.

As Christmas approaches, Gov. Larry Hogan told Marylanders to limit travel to essential purposes only, saying the holidays will be a critical time in the fight against the spread of coronavirus.

Under an emergency order, state residents who travel outside Maryland — and anyone who travels to Maryland — must either obtain a negative COVID-19 test result or quarantine for 10 days.

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“Our message today is simple: You are safer at home for the holidays this year,” Hogan said at a news conference Thursday in Annapolis. “It will save lives.”

The season’s traditions — family visits, time with friends and other socializing — are the kinds of activities that contact tracing shows “are the most dangerous things we can do,” the Republican governor said.

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Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C., are exempt from the order, which was issued Thursday and is effective immediately. Hogan said the state isn’t planning aggressive enforcement of the order, rather relying on the “good faith” of state residents.

“If you don’t have to travel, please don’t,” said Gregory Slater, the state’s transportation secretary.

The state health department also is advising people to limit gatherings to 10 people or fewer, down from a previous advisory warning against groups of more than 25 people.

And Hogan said state agencies will suspend in-person customer service operations for two weeks starting Dec. 21. Slater emphasized that the closure of state customer service operations includes the closing of Motor Vehicle Administration offices, EZPass purchase sites and the MTA Transit Store.

The coronavirus has continued to surge in Maryland as the temperatures drop. The state reported 2,217 new coronavirus cases Thursday and 49 more deaths tied to COVID-19, the illness the virus causes.

Maryland has reported 666 deaths so far this month — about 13% of the state’s overall death toll.

However, Hogan said, the post-Thanksgiving surge in Maryland has not been as bad as health experts predicted.

“Our strongest defense against this virus continues to be the cooperation and vigilance of the people of Maryland,” he said.

Maryland health officials also said Thursday they’ve learned there may be a reduction in the state’s next allocation of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, set to arrive next week. Vaccinations began Monday and the state has been expecting to receive up to 300,000 doses by the month’s end.

The development does not affect the state’s initial allotment of 155,000 doses, officials said.

Leaders in at least 10 states have said in recent days that the federal government informed them that their shipments next week will be far less than projected.

Pfizer issued a statement Thursday saying it is not having any production issues with its vaccine, “and no shipments containing the vaccine are on hold or delayed.”

“This week, we successfully shipped all 2.9 million doses that we were asked to ship by the U.S. Government to the locations specified by them,” the company said. “We have millions more doses sitting in our warehouse but, as of now, we have not received any shipment instructions for additional doses.”

Hogan said he might get more details Friday.

“We just heard some of this today and we’re trying to get to the bottom of it,” he said.

At his news conference, Hogan addressed recent comments on his official Facebook page — in which he responded to a disgruntled commenter by saying he was “getting fatigued with your stupid comments every day.”

“If you are tired of seeing what I say on my Facebook page why not just get the hell off my page and you won’t be so bothered by listening,” Hogan’s Facebook comments read.

Hogan said he made the comments himself “after nine months of working day and night, seven days a week.”

“I was frustrated with the stupid comments, but I probably shouldn’t have used that language,” Hogan said.

The governor also announced a $180 million economic relief package, mostly for businesses. That includes aid for hotels, restaurants, bars, entertainment venues and technology-based rural businesses. It also gives a $40 million boost for temporary cash assistance and $40 million for disability care providers.

He urged the public to support local restaurants by getting takeout or delivery, donating to charities and shopping at small businesses for the holidays.

And he made a special exception to his travel order: Santa Claus and his reindeer, he said, are free to go where they please.

Baltimore Sun reporters Ben Leonard and Alex Mann and The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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