By: Bryan Renbaum, MarylandReporter.com
Gov. Larry Hogan said Wednesday that the state’s fight against the coronavirus has progressed to a point at which the order he issued on March 23 requiring the closure all non-essential businesses will be lifted Friday evening.
“Our testing capacity, the drop in positivity, hospitalizations, and ICU beds-and all of these metrics-allow us to now safely begin Stage 2 of our roadmap to recovery- and to take more steps that are critical for getting our economy back on track and getting more Marylanders back to work. Effective at 5 p.m. on Friday, June 5 we will be lifting the order requiring the closure of non-essential businesses,” Hogan said at a news conference at the State House in Annapolis.
“The list of Maryland businesses that are now open is much much longer than those few that will have to remain closed. Manufacturing, construction, large and small retail shops, specialty vendors, wholesalers, warehouses and offices-including information technology firms, legal offices, accounting, banking, financial institutions, insurance agencies, design studios, advertising and architectural firms, and media production companies-will all be open and operational in Maryland.”
Hogan elaborated on the list of businesses that will be able to be reopened on Friday.
“Real estate offices, travel agencies, auto dealer showrooms, bank branches, and various other businesses and offices can all safely reopen with public health safety guidance recommendations in place. Personal services such as nail salons and tanning salons may also reopen by appointment only with strict safety protocols.”
Hogan urged businesses to take safety precautions when reopening, such as requiring employees to wear face masks and instituting daily temperature checks. Hogan said employees who are able to work from home should continue to do so.
Hogan said that effective Monday, state government agencies such as the Motor Vehicle Administration, “will begin a phased reopening of select branches to customers on a limited basis, by appointment only, with staff wearing face coverings-and with plexiglass dividers at each station.”
Hogan said the state will begin to gradually resume regular public transit schedules and that the Maryland Department of Education will proceed with its plan to reopen daycare centers.
However, Hogan urged Marylanders to remain vigilant in the fight against COVID.
“I also want to continue to remind the people of Maryland that moving into Stage 2 does not mean that this crisis is behind us or that we can afford to stop being vigilant and cautious.”
All 24 of Maryland’s jurisdictions have begun Stage 1 of the recovery process. As of Friday they will have the option to begin Stage 2 but are not required to do so.
Mike O’Halloran, who is state director of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), praised Hogan’s decision to move to Stage 2 of the recovery process but noted that even under that stage many small businesses will still remain closed.
“This is welcome news for Maryland’s small businesses, particularly those the Governor deemed non-essential,” O’Halloran said in a statement. “Small employers are anxious to get their workers rehired and their customers back. But make no mistake Maryland small businesses still face significant challenges under the Governor’s latest executive order especially those that remain closed under his plan. Fitness centers, movie theaters, and small shops in malls are still wondering when they can reopen. ”
“Retailers are limited to half of their capacity. Restaurants and bars are still prohibited from allowing their customers indoors. These restrictions will continue to hamper the ability for small businesses to weather this pandemic. And while difficulties remain, small businesses continue to meet these challenges and remain hopeful they will be given additional flexibility sooner than later,” he added.
During Wednesday’s news conference Hogan reiterated his praise of Baltimore’s largely peaceful protests in response to the police killing of 48-year-old African-American George Floyd last week in Minneapolis. But Hogan urged protestors to wear face masks and practice social distancing in order to prevent the spread of the virus.
Hogan also addressed voting problems in the state’s June 2 primary election.
“There were obviously significant failures, there are questions that need to be answered, which is why we are calling on the SBE Administrator to prepare a full and complete report to me, the Board of Public Works, the Secretary of State, the presiding officers of the Maryland General Assembly, and to the public, no later than July 3.”
Hogan called on the Maryland General Assembly to “immediately begin oversight hearings to determine what caused the failures and how they can be corrected.” Hogan said the state will take “whatever actions are necessary to make sure that those responsible correct these problems in order to safeguard our democratic process and ensure that the November election is free of these failures and these issues.”