After Hogan announces limited reopening, commissioner says Carroll County is ‘ready to go'

After Gov. Larry Hogan announced on Wednesday he’s lifting the stay-at-home order and easing business restrictions put in place because of the coronavirus pandemic, one commissioner believes Carroll County is ready for this next phase.

Starting Friday at 5 p.m., Hogan said, Maryland will enter the first stage of his three-phase recovery plan and shift from a stay-at-home order to a “safer at home” advisory. Marylanders will not be required to stay home, but they are strongly encouraged to do so — especially older adults and people vulnerable to the coronavirus. Those who can work from home should continue to do so, he said.


The announcement followed a slight two-week decline in hospitalizations due to the coronavirus, Hogan said, and after consultation with public health experts and business leaders.

Carroll County Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, told the Times he is comfortable with the governor’s plan.


“Based upon our numbers and the actions of our citizens, we’re ready,” Wantz, president of the Board of County Commissioners, said Wednesday after Hogan’s news conference. “Carroll County is ready to go.”

There have been 604 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and 69 deaths in the county as of May 13, according to Carroll County Health Department.

On April 30, 1,711 Marylanders were hospitalized due to COVID-19. As of Wednesday, that number has dipped to 1,550.

When asked if he had concerns residents might shirk health and safety measures after this latest announcement, Wantz said he did not think residents would erase all the work they’ve done.

“I applaud our citizens for what they’ve been doing, and I truly believe that they would continue to do so because I can’t imagine anybody wanting to all of this shutdown again,” he said.

The commissioners unanimously voted Thursday to proceed with the governor’s first-stage reopening guidance. They applauded Carroll countians for following health and safety guidelines, and encouraged them to continue.

Under Hogan’s plan, places of worship are now permitted to gather at up to 50% capacity indoors, with outdoor services strongly encouraged.

Retail stores may reopen at up to 50% capacity, with curbside pickup and delivery strongly encouraged. Such stores include clothing and shoe sellers, pet groomers, car washes, art galleries, and book stores.


Manufacturing may resume in a safe manner, with multiple shifts recommended.

Some personal services, including barber shops and hair salons, may open up to 50% capacity by appointment only.

The governor’s mask order is unchanged. People should continue wearing masks in indoor public areas, retail stores and while using public transportation. Hogan also encouraged frequent hand washing, physical distancing and disinfecting.

Restrictions on gatherings of more than 10 people and closure of businesses deemed nonessential remain in place.

Hogan acknowledged some county leaders have said they do not feel ready to reopen. Local governments may follow the governor’s guidelines or continue to impose restrictions, according to the governor’s office.

“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.


Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3, said Thursday he would like to see restrictions eased further so restaurants with outdoor seating can reopen. He asked the board to send a letter to the governor suggesting this. Wantz said they would send a letter early next week and he would personally follow up with the governor during their weekly conference call.

Commissioner Eric Bouchat, R-District 4, called Hogan’s plan a step in the right direction.

Commissioner Richard Weaver, R-District 2, said he wished there was more testing capability, but was glad to take this step forward.

“I think we have to do what we can in Carroll County to get things open, keep social distancing, keep masks in place, but we start to let people go out,” he said.

Commissioner Ed Rothstein, R-District 5, said he was glad businesses will reopen and said they deserve patronage. “They’ve gone through so much,” he said.

The leaders of the eight largest jurisdictions in the state — that does not include Carroll — are discussing coordinating reopening plans.


Wantz said Carroll is not part of a pact with other counties to coordinate reopening, but said he has been in “constant contact” with the leaders of neighboring jurisdictions.

“For me, it’s about our numbers and about our actions and about the responsibilities that our citizens have taken,” Wantz said. “I don’t really have a lot of heartache with other decisions in the other jurisdictions. I think they’ll do the right things.”

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Wantz applauded the county’s residents for their efforts to curb the spread of the disease, but urged them to continue doing so in order to reach the next phase of reopening. “While this is a great step forward, this is not over by any means,” he said.

Carroll County Sheriff Jim DeWees said he is not concerned that county residents would stop complying with the measures the governor still has in place.

“I believe the overwhelming majority of our citizens understand the gravity of the situation,” he said. “I have no doubt that our businesses and churches will put measures in place to keep their members, staff and patrons health first. This was long overdue, and we’ll be here to help everyone transition back to some normalcy.”

The second phase of allowing “medium-risk” activities would enable significantly more activities and is predicted to last much longer than the first phase.


Examples of medium-risk activities include: reopening businesses with social distancing measures and masking in place, allowing more than 10 people to gather, holding indoor fitness classes, reopening child care centers, resuming regular public transportation schedules, holding indoor religious services, and allowing restaurants and bars to reopen with restrictions.

Anyone who thinks they or a family member might be showing coronavirus symptoms can call the Carroll County Health Department’s COVID-19 hotline, which is available 8 a.m. through 5 p.m. seven days a week at 410-876-4848, or contact their doctor. After hours, callers may leave a message or call 211. People with emergencies should continue to call 911.

Baltimore Sun reporters Luke Broadwater and Pamela Wood contributed to this story.

For the record

Sheriff Jim DeWees clarified a quote he sent via text that appeared in a previous version of this story. He intended to say citizens understand the gravity of the situation.