Maryland begins lifting some COVID-19 restrictions
As Maryland continues preparations to begin Stage One of the ‘Maryland Strong: Roadmap to Recovery,’ Governor Larry Hogan Wednesday announced the resumption of elective medical procedures and the broadening of permitted outdoor activities under the state’s Stay at Home order.
These directives have the unanimous support of the Maryland Coronavirus Recovery Team, including leading doctors and public health experts.
“I realize that these are only small steps, and that they may be of little comfort to those who are out of work and struggling,” said Governor Hogan. “But it is thanks to all of you and your incredible sacrifices that we are making great progress. We are indeed flattening the curve and we are preparing to launch our reopening plan in order to safely get people back to work, to safely get our small businesses back open again to get our economy back on track, so that Maryland, and our nation, can defeat this virus and come back stronger and better than ever.”
RESUMPTION OF ELECTIVE MEDICAL PROCEDURES: Governor Hogan has directed the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) to issue guidance that allows hospitals and licensed health care providers to resume elective and non-urgent medical procedures. Providers must exercise their independent professional judgment in determining what procedures are appropriate to perform, which appointments should occur, and which patients to see in light of widespread COVID-19 community transmission. All health care workers, patients, and others must be screened for COVID-19 symptoms, and physical distancing requirements must be strictly maintained in all settings where people must wait in order to minimize direct contact between individuals. Read the Maryland Department of Health’s order.
BROADENING OF PERMITTED OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES: Governor Hogan has amended his Stay at Home order to broaden the list of permitted outdoor activities to now include individual and small group sports such as golfing, tennis, and similar activities; outdoor fitness instruction; recreational fishing and hunting; recreational boating; and horseback riding. Closed functions at state parks will be reopened, including all state beaches for walking and exercise, as well as playgrounds. Local governments will have the flexibility to take similar actions at their discretion. It will remain critical, however, that Marylanders continue to follow public health guidance and practice physical distancing. These changes take effect tomorrow, Thursday, May 7, at 7:00 a.m.
SCHOOLS: State Superintendent Dr. Karen Salmon announced that following extensive discussions with the Maryland Department of Education (MSDE), the State Board of Education, MDH, and public health experts advising the governor, schools will be closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 academic year. While online and distance learning opportunities will continue, the department will release ‘Maryland Together: Recovery Plan for Education,’ a comprehensive plan for long-term recovery. At this point, MSDE does not envision that the reopening of schools would be included in Stage One of the governor’s plan, however, different methods of returning to school could be included in both Stage Two and Three. Additional updates include:
Child care: MSDE has distributed $34 million in payments to over 3,700 child care providers serving children of essential personnel, and all payments are now up-to-date.
Meal program: Since the beginning of school closures in March, MSDE has served nearly 8 million meals at 715 sites to school-aged children in Maryland with the support of local food directors and the Maryland National Guard. To find a meal distribution site, please click here.
Graduation: Decisions regarding graduation will be made by each local school system superintendent. MSDE has been assured by each superintendent that they are collaborating with the local community to be certain that recognition is moving forward and that seniors will have the opportunity to be recognized for their exceptional accomplishments.
RECOVERY PLAN UPDATE: On Tuesday, Governor Hogan convened another call with the Maryland Coronavirus Recovery Team, which unanimously endorsed today’s actions. The governor also received reports from 15 industry-specific business advisory groups, including small businesses, along with churches and nonprofits. Each of these task forces has collaborated on proposed recommendations and guidelines to help determine how they can prepare to reopen in ways that can keep their employees, their customers, and members of their congregations safe. The state will continue to work very closely with these communities as they prepare for their phased, safe, and gradual reopenings.
REMDESIVIR: Governor Hogan announced that Gilead has donated 1,600 doses of remdesivir to the State of Maryland. This is the only drug proven in a clinical study to help treat COVID-19. These initial doses will be deployed to Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties, where there is the highest concentration of cases.
BLUE FLAME: Last week, Governor Hogan took action to cancel the state’s order of masks and ventilators from Blue Flame Medical, and referred the company to Attorney General Brian Frosh for investigation. It was reported today that the U.S. Department of Justice has launched a federal investigation into Blue Flame’s business dealings with multiple states, including California. “It is unconscionable that anyone would try to exploit this pandemic for profit or personal gain, which is exactly why we acted so swiftly to uncover Blue Flame’s potential wrongdoings,” said Governor Hogan.
BUILDING BLOCKS UPDATE: Governor Hogan provided Marylanders with an update on the four building blocks for ‘Maryland Strong: Roadmap to Recovery’:
Testing: Maryland has expanded testing capacity to cover outbreaks and hotspots, including universal testing for nursing home residents and staff and workers at Maryland’s two poultry processing plants. The state is also expanding testing for health care workers and first responders at local fire and EMS departments, and for health care workers at MDH, the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Corrections (DPSCS), and the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services (DJS).
Hospital Surge Capacity: The governor announced that the state has exceeded its original surge capacity goal of an additional 6,000 beds. Currently, 8,100 surge beds, including 2,400 ICU beds, are available across the state. The recently reopened Laurel Medical Center is adding a new wing and new rooms are being added at Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park.
PPE: The State of Maryland recently acquired 4.5 million KN95 masks, 600,000 N95 masks, 150,000 medical gowns, 1.1 million face shields, and 3.5 million surgical gloves. The week, Maryland launched the ‘Maryland Manufacturing Network Supplier Portal,’ an online platform that helps connect Maryland suppliers with buyers who are looking to source PPE and other critical supplies.
Contact Tracing: The State of Maryland recently executed a contract with the National Opinion Research Center (NORC), the nation’s oldest and largest university-based research firm, to quadruple the state’s disease investigation capability. Hiring is underway with more than 900 applicants across 20 of Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions.