Hogan announces reopening plan, hopes to launch first stage in early May

Governor Larry Hogan announced Maryland’s reopening plan for the covid-19 pandemic today in an afternoon press conference. 

Hogan said that his administration has been working hard to attain adequate testing, hospital capacity, personal protective equipment (PPE), and staff for contact tracing in order to start the process of recovery. Once these criteria are met and doctors begin to see a decline in the rate of hospitalizations, ICU admissions, and deaths due to the covid-19 pandemic, the reopening plan will begin. 

According to Dr. Tom Inglesby, director of Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Health Security, lessening social distancing practices would have dangerous repercussions without a consistent decline in the rate of severe cases. “We all want the state to re-open as quickly as it can, but it’s clear that if we opened the state today, we would risk a fast acceleration in the epidemic to very high numbers,” he said at the press conference.

The reopening plan consists of three stages. During stage one, officials will lift the stay-at-home order, allow some small businesses to open, permit outdoor activities such as golf and tennis, and authorize hospitals to perform elective surgeries. Local governments will be left to determine protocols for opening libraries and recreational parks. Social distancing measures will still be encouraged.

If there are no spikes in the rate of deaths, hospitalizations, ICU admissions, or community outbreaks, the reopening will continue. In stage two, more indoor activities will be available, including public transit and restaurants, and nonessential workers who cannot telework will be permitted to return to offices. 

In the final stage, higher-risk activities will be permitted, such as opening entertainment venues. While health and safety is the top priority, Hogan promised his second priority is the economy. “Other than keeping Marylanders safe, saving lives, and defeating this hidden enemy, there is absolutely nothing more important to me than getting people back to work, getting our small businesses reopened, and getting our economy back on track,” he said.

More than 348 thousand Marylanders have filed for unemployment benefits since the pandemic started, according to the Maryland Department of Labor. Nationally, more than 26 million Americans have lost their jobs or been furloughed in the last five weeks. The Maryland Department of Commerce has so far given $25 million to small businesses and approved 15 of 230 applications for manufacturing businesses to begin emergency production of PPE. Earlier today, Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed a $484 billion coronavirus relief package which puts more money toward small businesses, hospitals, and testing costs.

Additionally, 13 industry-specific advisory groups are dedicated to creating guidelines and procedures once reopening begins. “Each group is compiling recommendations and best practices for how they can operate safely and make sure they are protecting their employees and their customers,” Secretary of Commerce Kelly Schulz said.

According to the model from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, Maryland should be able to relax social distancing measures after June 4.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp allowed some businesses—including barber shops, tattoo parlors, and bowling alleys—to reopen today in Georgia, earning praise from some business people and conservative figures while drawing condemnation from some business owners, Trump, and Democrats. 15 other states will begin reopening next week, per Business Insider.

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