ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — Gov. Larry Hogan said effective Wednesday at 5 p.m., indoor dining at restaurants and bars will go back to 50% capacity, citing the seven-day surge in coronavirus cases in Maryland.
The governor said the Maryland Department of Health has also issued a new public health advisory strongly warning against indoor gatherings of 25 people or more. He said those who violate the new restrictions could face fines and/or jail time.
The state is also implementing mandatory telework for all state employees who are approved to do so, except for essential, direct, public-facing services and essential personnel.
In addition, the health department will issue an emergency order to activate alternative care site capacity and provide staffing support and clinical care to nursing homes.
Speaking of nursing homes, they are also encouraging visitors to get tested before seeing loved ones. They also say staff should avoid gatherings and nursing homes should stock up on PPE headed into winter.
Hogan said since he spoke last week, the state is seeing widespread community transmission. Maryland's case rate has risen to 19.8 per 100,000, a 36% increase in the past week. The case rates are above 10 per 100,000 in 18 jurisdictions and above 20 per 100,000 in seven jurisdictions.
Baltimore City is one of the 11 jurisdictions that have surpassed the 5% positivity rate benchmark.
The state's contact tracing data continues to indicate that family gatherings are the most common activity among those recently infected. There is also a marked increase in the number of people infected who recently dined indoors at a restaurant and among those who have traveled out of state.
He added too many businesses are failing to comply with state regulations and orders.
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Before announcing new restrictions, he warned that the virus has returned to Maryland in a big way.
"We cannot afford to ignore these trends and patterns," he said, adding warning lights that while warning signs were starting to blink on the dashboard last week-- the state has now crossed over into the danger zone.
"We do not want to take actions that will further burden our struggling small businesses or actions to shut down our economy. Our primary goals continue to be keeping our hospitals from overflowing and stopping more Marylanders from dying," he said.
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The main thing to know for Baltimore: masks are now required in all outdoor spaces, regardless of social distancing, and inside any business or establishment; and Baltimore is moving back to Phase 1, which means 25% capacity inside businesses and restaurants.
There are two new items for the city. Indoor dining will close at 11 p.m. rather than the previously stated 10 p.m. and taverns, that normally operate on more alcohol than food sales, can sell prepackaged goods to go.
Montgomery County is heading back to 25% capacity for various businesses as well.
He commended the local jurisdictions for making an effort to jump ahead of the surge, but also urged counties to step up the pace of their relief efforts.
The deadline for state and local governments to spend CARES Act funding is December 30.
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