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It’s beginning to look a lot like 2019 in Maryland, and that’s not a good thing | COMMENTARY

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announces a further relaxation of restrictions that were put into place to limit the spread of the coronavirus. He spoke at the State House in Annapolis on June 10, 2020.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announces a further relaxation of restrictions that were put into place to limit the spread of the coronavirus. He spoke at the State House in Annapolis on June 10, 2020. (Pamela Wood/Baltimore Sun)

Casinos, malls, gyms, indoor dining? Gov. Larry Hogan says all will be good to go this month — or good “to go to,” we should say — with a few restrictions, of course. Whether you see the 50% capacity rule as half full or half empty likely depends upon which side of the cash register you stand. But, still, it all sounds so 2019!

It’s starting to look more like 2019, too. With each new lifting of limits, it seems fewer people are making the effort to wear masks outside, and that 6-foot recommendation is becoming harder to remember. Why bother?

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We’ll tell you why: Because it’s 2020, and we’d like to live to see 2021.

A reminder of why we went through this little experiment for the past three months: As of midday Thursday, there have been 2 million reported cases of the highly contagious COVID-19 in the United States this year (7.3 million worldwide) and 113,000 deaths (413,000 globally). We still have no treatment or vaccine to prevent it, and it has not gone away. It’s just been contained somewhat because of strict social distancing measures.

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That doesn’t mean we don’t want America to get back to work; we absolutely do, but people need to have a personal plan and to proceed with caution. Just because the governor says it’s time to reopen doesn’t mean it’s time to party like it’s 2019. One of the governor’s own advisers made that point — pointedly — on Twitter Thursday, a day after Mr. Hogan moved Maryland back to the future.

“While I agree with the public health messages communicated yesterday, I don’t agree with a number of the decisions,” Dr. Tom Inglesby, director of the Johns Hopkin’s Center for Health Security, wrote, kicking off a series of 10, strongly worded tweets.

He’s against ending limits on indoor large gatherings, restarting conventions and reopening casinos without “major mitigation efforts.” Not enough time has passed since the state’s last phase of reopening to gauge the impact, he wrote, urging Maryland to “wait to see” before making more changes and warning that “some states w/ earlier success now have rapidly rising cases.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves, though we’d like to expand a little on that last point. At least 20 states and Puerto Rico have seen rising cases in the past two weeks. Some of the increase is certainly the result of more people getting tested, a favorite talking point of those in favor of reopening both bigger and faster, but most of it is because of more people moving around more, according to public health experts.

So what do we do? Pause. Assess your risk versus the potential reward. Ordering takeout is generally safer than outdoor dining, which is safer than indoor dining, for example. If you’re one of the thousands of Marylanders employed by a casino, we get it — you need to get back to work. But if you’re the kind of gambler who frequently left with less than you came, do you really need to get back to the casino now?

And focus on the public health suggestions the governor made, and Dr. Inglesby highlighted, over the restrictions he’s allowing local jurisdictions to lift: the fight against the virus isn’t over, and we must exercise personal responsibility, stay 6 feet apart, wear masks, choose outside over inside and so on.

And speaking of local autonomy regarding reopening: That’s the way Governor Hogan chose to roll it out, you may remember. A “flexible and community-based approach which empowers individual county leaders,” he called it, putting the onus on localities to determine when it’s safe to move forward. So we were a little surprised to hear him take Baltimore’s mayor to task for not reopening retail on the governor’s timeline. If he wanted to lead on that, Governor Hogan shouldn’t have abdicated the responsibility.

The Baltimore Sun editorial board — made up of Opinion Editor Tricia Bishop, Deputy Editor Andrea K. McDaniels and writer Peter Jensen — offers opinions and analysis on news and issues relevant to readers. It is separate from the newsroom.

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