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Ocean City mayor urges beachgoers not to visit amid coronavirus pandemic as start of tourism season in flux

At a time of year when Ocean City would normally begin gearing up for visitors, the resort town’s mayor is urging those tourists, “Now is not the time to visit Ocean City.”

“To further protect our residents, visitors and Town employees we request that visitors postpone trips to Ocean City beginning immediately” to prevent spread of the new coronavirus, Mayor Rick Meehan said in a statement issued Thursday.

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In an interview, Meehan said town officials are still waiting to decide whether the annual Springfest, which typically helps kick off weekend tourism as the weather warms, can go on as scheduled May 7-10.

“Usually I’m the mayor that’s inviting everyone to come to Ocean City,” he said. “Following the governor’s lead, I think drastic measures do need to be taken. ... We’re treating this very seriously.”

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Gov. Larry Hogan on Thursday ordered residents to avoid group gatherings larger than 10 people, and directed indoor malls to close as the state reported 22 new cases of COVID-19, the infection the coronavirus causes. Those moves follow earlier decisions to close schools, restaurant dining rooms, bars and movie theaters.

In Maryland, 107 people have tested positive for the virus, and one person died Wednesday. But there are no confirmed cases in Worcester County, where Ocean City is located, and only a single confirmed case on the Eastern Shore, in Talbot County.

A host of Ocean City events have been canceled over the coming weeks, including job fairs during which the town’s hospitality industry would normally staff up for the summer season.

Several thousand foreign workers also typically come to Ocean City each season, but given global travel restrictions to stop the spread of the coronavirus, Meehan said it’s unclear if and when they’ll be able to come this year.

“That issue is outstanding,” he said. “I’m not really sure at this point how that will be resolved.”

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