ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) -- Maryland will lift capacity limits for outdoor and indoor dining, as well as other establishments starting March 12 at 5 p.m.
For dining, only seated and distanced service will be allowed. Crowding in bars will not be permitted, Gov. Larry Hogan said Tuesday. Capacity limits for retail, religious facilities, fitness centers, casinos, personal services, indoor recreational establishments will also lift Friday.
Large outdoor and indoor venues may expand to 50% capacity. This includes conferences and wedding venues, concert venues, conventions, theaters, racing facilities and other outdoor entertainment and sporting venues- including Camden Yards and Pimlico.
The governor said masking, physical distancing and other safety measures will remain in place for all outdoor and indoor businesses and establishments. This includes keeping the statewide masking order in full effect. It is still required at any public indoor facility, when using public transportation, and in outdoor public areas where physical distancing is impossible.
"The time is right, we've been following a very balanced approach from day one," Gov. Hogan said.
UPDATES FROM GOV. HOGAN'S NEWS CONFERENCE:
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- Graduations, Proms Should Be Allowed 'As Long As We Follow All Health Advice,' Gov. Hogan Says
- Mass COVID-19 Vaccination Site In Hagerstown To Open March 25, One Week Ahead Of Schedule
- COVID-19 Latest: Oriole Park Can Host Fans At 50% Capacity, Gov. Hogan Announces
- COVID-19 Latest: Adult Day Care Centers To Reopen With Safety Measures In Place, Gov. Hogan Says
Medical adult day care centers can also reopen. Facilities are able to set restrictions and safety measures themselves.
The state will also lift quarantine requirements and other restrictions on out-of-state travel. The governor said testing is still strongly encouraged for out-of-state travelers.
He cited lower metrics over the last few weeks, including the state's positivity rate, hospitalization rates and nursing homes with active cases- including zero deaths in nursing homes Monday.
Hospitalizations have dropped 59%, from nearly 2,000 to 792, which is the lowest level since November 10. In January, all 24 jurisdictions were in the federal red zone for case rates. For several weeks now, we have had zero counties in the red zone.
He said Maryland's vaccination rate is higher than 36 other states.
He said Maryland is averaging at 36,258 shots per day, an increase of more than 1,100%. More than half of Marylanders over 65 and more than half of our entire Phase 1 population has been vaccinated.
"I encourage all Marylanders to get the vaccine as soon as it's their turn," said Dr. Robert Redfield, senior advisor for public health.
At this time, 98.6% of doses provided by the federal government have been deployed, and 95.3% of all doses have been administered.
"After just over a year of grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, each day brings us closer to seeing a light at the end of this very long tunnel," Gov. Hogan said.
Kelly Schulz, secretary of Maryland Department of Commerce, warned Marylanders not to drop all their precautions just because more things are opening up.
"Today's announcement does not mean it's time to start letting our guard down," she said. "It means staying safe works, wearing masks works."
Baltimore County has not announced whether it will stand with the state's guidelines or keep their current restrictions. Baltimore County spokesman Sean Naron said county leaders learned the news when the public did.
"We again learned today's news at the same time as the public. We're currently evaluating the announcements made today and will identify next steps after consulting with our public health team."
Howard County Executive Calvin Ball made similar comments in a statement:
"After the holiday surge in COVID 19 cases, Howard County residents and businesses vigilantly followed guidelines and best practices to help reduce these rates to where we are today," said Howard County Executive Calvin Ball. "Unfortunately, we were not informed ahead of time of the Governor's announcements today. We are currently reviewing the revised Executive Order to understand its full implications. We will continue to evaluate our metrics and we remain committed to making data informed and people driven decisions to keep Howard County residents safe."
In a statement, Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said the city "will continue to lean on the direction of healthcare professionals and local data on COVID-19 hospitalizations, deaths, and new cases to shape reopening efforts in Baltimore."
"My office will work with the Baltimore City Health Department and the Law Department to review the Governor's executive order and determine the best path forward. I am proud of the work of Commissioner Dzirasa and the Health Department, and remain committed to ensuring recovery efforts are administered through an equitable lens that prioritizes the people and places hardest hit by COVID-19," the statement continued.
Harford County, however, has already said it will follow the state's guidance.
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