With its COVID-19 metrics remaining low, Harford County Executive Barry Glassman said the county would be opening as much as allowable after Gov. Larry Hogan’s announced that Maryland would enter Stage Three of its coronavirus recovery plan.
All state businesses can reopen with some limitations effective at 5 p.m. Friday, the governor announced Tuesday.
Movie theaters and live entertainment can reopen at 50% capacity, or up to 100 people at indoor venues and 250 at outdoor venues. This moves the state into the third phase of the “Maryland Strong: Roadmap to Recovery” that guides the state’s reopening process.
Harford County has been monitoring relevant COVID-19 metrics and staying vigilant, Glassman said, while abiding by social distancing and masking guidelines. Still, the next phase will require continued care, he said.
“We are not ready to run up the victory flag yet,” Glassman said. “I think everyone is going to be vigilant and, hopefully, we will get a COVID vaccine here in December or January.”
The county’s financial state may also be more encouraging than previously forecast, Glassman said. The county treasurer has been keeping an eye on the situation, and while the county’s revenues will take a hit, it could be less than anticipated.
The remaining uncertainty, he said, was the financial shape of the state, which could push costs it normally picks up, like education expenses, to the county level.
“I think the state budget will be in worse shape than the county budgets,” he said.
Harford is also urging residents to get flu shots, acknowledging that winter could see a confluence of flu season and a COVID resurgence, Glassman said.
Counties are also pushing Congress for legislation that would allow them to use CARES Act funding to offset revenues lost as a result of the pandemic. That, he said, is unlikely to happen until after the November election.
“If Congress gets its act together, we are still hopeful there may be a revenue package in the final COVID bill,” he said.
As of Tuesday, Harford County has had exactly 2,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to the state Health Department’s data, and 67 confirmed deaths related to the respiratory disease. The county’s seven-day rolling positivity rate is 3.65%, according to state data.