Maryland to reduce restaurant capacity Wednesday, mandates telework

ANNAPOLIS, MD—Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Tuesday additional restrictions on state residents due to a fall Coronavirus “surge” by reducing restaurant capacity and limiting indoor gatherings effective at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 11.

“We are now seeing widespread community transmission, not just in our cities and urban and suburban areas, but in our rural counties that had not experienced the large spikes earlier this year,” Hogan said during a press conference. “More people are getting infected with the virus, more people are being hospitalized, more people are going into intensive care, more Marylanders are dying.”

Hogan said the state has had seven straight days with more than 1,000 cases and those numbers continue to rise.

On Tuesday, the Maryland Department of Health reported an additional 1,338 cases of COVID-19.

“Yesterday, our seven-day statewide positivity rate reached 5.05%, crossing over the 5% mark, which is the key benchmark set by the WHO and the CDC for the first time in 137 days,” he said. “Eleven of our 24 jurisdictions now have positivity rates which have gone above that 5% benchmark” including Washington County.

Hogan said Maryland has moved into the “red zone” as designated by the federal government for the number of cases per 100,000, with a case rate of 19.8—an increase of 36% in the past seven days.

“We have been and are still doing much better than 40 other states in our health metrics, but as I’ve repeatedly said, this deadly virus does not recognize state borders,” Hogan said.

The increase in cases is attributed, according to officials doing contact tracing, a variety of behaviors.

“Family gatherings are highest risk activities, as well as dining in restaurants, working outside the home and traveling out of state,” Hogan explained. “We cannot afford to ignore these trends and patterns,” he said. “Too many residents and businesses have COVID fatigue and they’ve begun letting their guard down.”

As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, the state of Maryland will reduce the capacity of bars and restaurants from 75% to 50%, with groups not larger than six per table.

Customers who are not seated cannot be served and tables must be disinfected between seatings.

“We do not want to take actions that will further burden our struggling small businesses or actions to shut down our economy,” Hogan said. “Our primary goals continue to be keeping our hospitals from overflowing and stopping Marylanders from dying.”

The DOH is also issuing new health advisory strongly warning against indoor gatherings of 25 people or more.

“It’s easy to feel comfortable thinking that just because you haven’t engaged in any of the activities that we typically think of as high risk, that it’s enough to keep us safe,” Hogan said. “The reality is you can just as easily get the virus by hosting a group of friends to watch football on Sunday or celebrating a family birthday or a Thanksgiving holiday.”

In addition, all workers who can work at home are to work at home, and an out-of-state travel advisory is in effect.

“All Marylanders are strongly advised against traveling to any of the eight states with a positivity rate above 10 percent or any of the 35 states with an avg case rate above 20 per 100,000,” he said. “We are strongly advising all employers across the state to limit their workforce only to workers who are essential and not able to telework.”

Hogan said the actions taken are necessary based on all the numbers, data, metrics and projections, and are being taken in consultation with the top doctors and public health experts from Maryland’s COVID task force.

“The state of Maryland will continue to constantly monitor all of the metrics and we may need to take additional statewide actions in the days and the weeks ahead if the situation continues to deteriorate,” Hogan said Tuesday. “We have come too far and the stakes are too high. This virus does not care if you are tired of it. It doesn’t care if you have holiday plans. It doesn’t care who you voted for. Marylanders crushed the curve once before and we can and we will do it again with your help.”