ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland further eased restrictions imposed to stop the spread of the coronavirus by allowing businesses to reopen Friday, but some of the state's largest jurisdictions are waiting to enter Phase 2 of the state's reopening plan.
Gov. Larry Hogan announced earlier this week that nonessential businesses can reopen at 5 p.m. Friday as the state begins Phase 2 of the economy's reopening. The governor ordered nonessential businesses closed on March 23 in response to the virus.
Hogan announced Friday that the state has conducted more than 405,000 virus tests. The state's COVID-19 positivity rate has dropped to 8.4%, the governor said, and the total number of hospitalizations in Maryland has dropped to its lowest level since April 13. There were 1,076 people in hospitals due to the virus as of Friday morning.
Businesses that will be able to reopen include manufacturing, construction, large and small retail shops, specialty vendors, wholesalers and warehouses. Offices including information technology firms, legal offices, accounting, banking and financial institutions, and insurance agencies also can open.
Real estate offices, travel agencies, auto dealer showrooms and bank branches also can reopen with public health and safety guidance recommendations in place, the governor's office said. That includes wearing face coverings during face-to-face interactions, taking workers' temperatures and limiting the proximity of employees by rotating work hours. Employees who can are being urged to continue working from home when possible.
Personal services such as nail and tanning salons, message therapy and tattoo parlors can reopen with 50% capacity and by appointment only.
A ban on indoor restaurant dining will remain in place. Fitness centers, senior centers, theaters, malls and amusement parks also will remain closed throughout the state.
Local officials have the authority to decide how much they want to reopen their jurisdictions at this time. All of Maryland's 24 jurisdictions have entered the state's Phase 1 reopening plan. Most will implement Phase 2 on Friday, but some are taking a slower approach.
Maryland's two largest counties with the highest number of virus cases just implemented the first stage of the recovery plan on Monday, and they are waiting to implement Phase 2. Montgomery County, the state's largest jurisdiction with more than 1 million residents, is proceeding with caution, said County Executive Marc Elrich. Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks announced Thursday that the county could move to Phase 2 on June 15.
Baltimore Mayor Bernard “Jack” Young said Maryland's largest city will fully implement Phase 1 on Monday.
“We’d like to be able to review the data as we begin to open more things up and understand if we’re going to see trends," said Dr. Letitia Dzirasa, the city's health commissioner.
Maryland has had 56,770 confirmed cases of the virus and 290,956 negative tests. The state reported Friday morning that there have been a total of 2,580 deaths in Maryland from the virus, an increase of 34 deaths since Thursday morning.