Maryland ups enforcement for Thanksgiving holiday

ANNAPOLIS, MD – Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan Monday reminded Marylanders to take precautions during the latest COVID-19 surge, and warned those who fail to do so of a widescale enforcement operation.

“Maryland is still much better prepared than most states to withstand this surge, particularly when it comes to testing,” Hogan said. “On Saturday, we reported a new daily high of 51,510 tests completed.”

Maryland has more than 230 testing sites across the state, including at Meritus Health Center in Hagerstown.

“It is clear there is widespread community transmission in every corner of our state,” Hogan said. “Maryland has now had 19 straight days with more than 1,000 new cases of the virus.”

During a press conference Monday, Hogan said COVID hospitalizations have increased by 80 percent over the past two weeks, with 1,276 patients are hospitalized statewide. He said some hospitals in western Maryland are already at their capacity limit.

The rise in numbers reinforced Hogan’s concerns about how the public is responding and his directives on businesses.

Hogan said capacity for bars, restaurants, retail are at 50 percent capacity and all establishments statewide where food or alcohol are served must close by 10 p.m., with the exception of takeout and delivery.

Last week, Hogan issued a public health advisory to strongly discourage any indoor gathering of 25 people or more and an expanded a travel advisory against out-of-state travel over the holiday.

Under his directives, masks are to be worn at any public indoor facility and private businesses across the state and at outdoor public areas when it is not possible to maintain social distancing.

“These measures are only effective if they are being followed and enforced,” Hogan said. “As COVID fatigue has set in, some individuals and businesses are starting to become lax. I know there is growing frustration that we are still fighting this virus and many people are struggling emotionally and financially, but following the public health directives is the only way we will be able to stop this virus,” he explained.

But Hogan said his message won’t stop there.

“Businesses and individuals who blatantly violate the public health orders and refuse to follow state law are not only willfully endangering themselves, but their family, friends and neighbors as well,” Hogan said. “We cannot afford to undue all of the progress we have made together in this war against the virus.”

In addition to traditional statewide efforts in drunk driving patrols over the holiday, state officials are also launching a widescale compliance education and enforcement operation.

“Additional state troopers will be assigned in every single county … to investigate any reports of violations of state law,” Hogan warned.

“The heightened visibility operation that we are launching today isn’t just about enforcement, but it’s about education on how to keep businesses safely open and to educated the public on how to stay safe and save lives,” Hogan said.

Maryland residents should be prepared for a cell phone alert as well. “At 5 p.m. on Wednesday, the Maryland Emergency Management Agency will be sending a wireless emergency alert to cell phones across the state to remind Marylanders of critical COVID 19 prevention measures and to provide info about state and local law enforcement actions,” Hogan said.

“While we have been fighting this virus for what seems like forever and even though a vaccine is on the way, we can make a huge difference if we do simple things like wearing a mask and washing our hands,” Hogan said.