ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland is lifting its outdoor mask requirement in line with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, Gov. Larry Hogan announced Wednesday, citing improved health metrics while strongly urging reluctant residents to get vaccinated.
“If you're an individual who does not intend to get vaccinated, we want to make sure that you understand that you are still in danger of hospitalization and death,” Hogan said. “Unvaccinated people, including younger people, are continuing to be hospitalized.”
Face coverings will still be required for all Maryland residents at all large ticketed venues. They also are required indoors at all public and private businesses across the state and when on public transportation.
People who are not yet vaccinated are strongly encouraged to continue wearing masks outdoors, especially when physical distancing is not possible.
Starting Saturday, all restrictions related to outdoor dining capacity and distancing will be lifted. Seated service and physical distancing requirements will remain in place indoors at bars and restaurants.
Hogan made the announcement amid significant improvements in health metrics in the state. Maryland's case rate of COVID-19 per 100,000 people has dropped 33% over the past two weeks, he said.
The governor said more than 4.5 million vaccines have been administered in Maryland. Nearly 85% of Maryland residents over 65 have been vaccinated, and more than 60% of people 18 and over have been vaccinated.
“As our vaccinations continue to expand and our health metrics continue to improve, we expect to be able to take additional actions in the weeks ahead and to a return to a sense of normalcy,” Hogan said.
The state has 12 mass vaccinations sites now open across the state, and a 13th will open Friday in Howard County. To make it easier to get a shot, starting Saturday the state is moving to direct scheduling for mass vaccination sites. At the end of the day Thursday, no preregistration will be required, and everyone who already has preregistered will be contacted for an appointment will be contacted by the end of the day Friday.
“So beginning Saturday, all eligible Marylanders will be able to go online and immediately book an appointment,” Hogan said.
People can do that by visiting covidvax.maryland.gov or by calling 1-855-634-6829.
As for the state's vaccine supply and demand, the governor said that “right now the demand is sort of matching the supply," but very soon the state will get to the point where the focus will be on “more pulling in, rather than just pushing it out.”