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Here’s what you need to know about Gov. Larry Hogan easing restrictions across Maryland

Gov. Larry Hogan announced Wednesday that Maryland is entering its first phase of reopening and lifting the stay-at-home order.

Effective 5 p.m. Friday, the Republican governor is replacing the order and implementing a “Safer at Home” advisory that will not be enforced by the rule of law and allows for more flexibility.

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Though the fight against the virus is “far from over,” Hogan said the state “can now at least begin to slowly recover.”

Here’s what you need to know:

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It varies in each jurisdiction

Hogan’s order gives each local government the ability to pick and choose what reopens and when because he “fully understands” every county isn’t in the same situation.

"We are providing for a flexible, community-based approach which empowers individual county leaders to make decisions regarding stage one reopenings in their jurisdictions,” Hogan said.

The governor said he made that decision because he understands each county has different hospitalization and intensive care unit rates as well as positive coronavirus case numbers.

Lester Davis, a spokesman for Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young, said Hogan’s announcement Wednesday was “definitely not what we were expecting.” The Democratic mayor and Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr., also a Democrat, said they are working together to figure out how to reopen.

Of the eight jurisdictions in the Baltimore region, only Carroll and Harford counties have signaled that they will reopen late Friday afternoon.

Only some businesses are able to reopen

The advisory allows only manufacturing, retail, haircuts and worship services to resume. Those establishments will reopen with 50% less capacity and mandated social distancing as well as mask usage.

Some of the businesses left off the advisory are disappointed, according to several tweets Hogan’s spokesperson Mike Ricci responded to. Several outdoor activities, such as drive-in movie theaters, are not able to resume. Outdoor exercise activities were included in a previous list of expanded activities, Ricci clarified on Twitter Thursday morning.

Even though retail stores are reopening, shopping malls will not be be allowed to reopen yet, Ricci said. And for now, “personal services” are relegated to hair salons and barbers — all nail salons, spas and massage businesses must remain closed.

How businesses and manufacturers operate will depend

Maryland Chamber of Commerce president Christine Ross said the potential for different rules in each county will make it difficult for companies operating in several areas across the state.

“This patchwork approach could prove detrimental for employers and their employees, who are already in the midst of navigating a difficult and evolving crisis situation,” Ross said in a statement.

Before making final decisions about how to operate, establishments now have to wait to hear from their mayor or county executive before knowing what their future holds, noted Mike O’Halloran, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business.

Many places still might not hold religious services right away

The Episcopal Diocese of Maryland said parishes will have to apply to diocesan leadership for permission to reopen. Carrie Graves, a spokeswoman for the diocese, said there will not be any in-person services this weekend and more guidance will be released next week.

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“The safety of our parishioners is our No. 1 priority,” Graves said.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore put out a 35-page guide for Catholic parishes this week that will be reviewed to see how it fits with the newest state order. The Archdiocese’s plan calls for reopening churches for private prayer, weddings, funerals and baptisms before celebrating regular daily or Sunday Mass.

Howard Libit, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, expects few in-person Shabbat services this weekend.

“Overall, most synagogues will take their time to see how things can resume in a safe way,” he said. “There are a lot of complicated issues to work out.”

Not all regions are following Maryland’s lead

Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser, a Democrat, announced Wednesday that the stay-at-home order for the district will be extended until June 8.

Hogan said at the news conference that D.C. is strictly urban compared with states like Maryland and Virginia that also have rural areas.

Similar to Hogan, Democratic Virginia Governor Gov. Ralph Northam is also planning to roll back the state’s stay-at-home order on Friday, except Northern counties will be under strict restrictions until at least May 29.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat, has also freed some counties in the state from the stay-at-home-order, but there are still several counties under the directive because of a high concentration of COVID-19 cases. Delaware Gov. John Carney, a Democrat, has targeted June 1 as a potential date to begin phasing out coronavirus restrictions.

Public health officials have some concerns about the move

Dr. Leana Wen, a former Baltimore health commissioner who is now a professor at George Washington University, is worried that the state might not be ready to reopen.

“My concern is whether we have the public health infrastructure — the testing, contact tracing and isolation capacity — to take these steps,” Wen said. “If we don’t, then going to phase one is a recipe for failure, with the certainty of new infections and another round of lockdowns.”

Baltimore Sun reporters Luke Broadwater, Pamela Wood and Daniel Oyefusi contributed to this article.

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