xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Howard County set to further reopen economy amid the coronavirus pandemic beginning Friday

County Executive Calvin Ball announced Tuesday morning that Howard County will enter the first phase of reopening amid the coronavirus pandemic at 7 a.m. Friday.

The announcement includes allowing retailers, barbers and hair salons to operate at 50% capacity, and religious institutions will be permitted to hold outdoor services of up to 250 people.

Advertisement

“As we continue to reopen our county, our goal remains the same. We understand that we must move forward responsibly,” Ball said Tuesday morning. “The data are promising, and we are progressing.”

The announcement comes nearly two weeks after Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced he would begin to loosen restrictions but leave ultimate discretion to local jurisdictions. At that time, Ball said Howard County was not ready to reopen as indicated by Hogan’s first phase.

Advertisement

Though allowed to open at 50% of maximum occupancy, barbers and hair salons must continue to operate by appointment only and staff and clients must wear masks.

While outdoor religious services can be held with up to 250 people, all participants must maintain 6 feet of distance. According to the county, indoor services are still limited to a 10-person maximum.

Retailers also will be allowed to reopen at 50% capacity, though the county is still encouraging those businesses to use curbside pickup and/or delivery when possible.

Ball said his decisions were guided by a decrease in the county’s coronavirus numbers. The county’s intensive care unit utilization rate at hospitals has fallen or stayed the same for seven of the past 14 days, and, as of Saturday, the daily case count has stayed the same or decreased for the first time since April 1.

As of Tuesday, there were 1,732 confirmed coronavirus cases in Howard, with 49 deaths reported, according to the state Department of Health.

“We know many are understandably anxious to reopen,” Ball said Tuesday. “Our goal is to reopen in a safe and effective [manner] to provide safeguards to flatten the curve.”

Maura Rossman, director of the Howard County Health Department, said Tuesday the county now has the evidence to support a “gradual reopening” in a safer manner.

“Today marks another milestone in responding to this pandemic,” Rossman said in a statement. “It is essential that we all continue social distancing and other efforts, so we can gradually resume our new normal activities.”

Newly appointed Fire Chief Bill Anuszewski said the transfer rate of symptomatic patients has decreased to 11 a day.

“The actions from our resilient community and the direction from our county administration has successfully flattened the curve, which is reflected through our response data,” Anuszewski said in a statement. “Our firefighters and paramedics continue to see a decrease in response, emergency care, and transport of potential COVID-19 patients.”

Ball also announced the county has enough personal protective equipment to last 30 days.

A rally hosted by Reopen Howard County, a 700-person Facebook group, that is set for Tuesday evening will go on as planned, organizers said Tuesday.

Advertisement

Protesters plan to meet at 5 p.m at the Howard County Court House in Ellicott City to hear speakers advocate for Ball to continue loosening restrictions in line with Maryland directives. After remarks, the group plans to walk to the bottom of Main Street, urging attendees to patronize local businesses.

While Chris Oxenham, one of the group’s founders, said he was pleased with Tuesday’s announcement, he wants Hogan and Ball to follow the same guidance moving forward.

“We’re urging Calvin Ball to follow the governor’s orders moving forward,” Oxenham said.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement