More businesses countywide can open Friday in line with Gov. Larry Hogan's recent executive orders, including bowling alleys, fitness centers and gyms, fraternal and social organizations, County Executive Jan Gardner announced Tuesday.
Those businesses and others can open at 50 percent capacity at 5 p.m. Friday as part of the second phase of Hogan's Roadmap to Recovery — along with following other health and safety guidelines from the governor's office, including face coverings and social distancing.
Gardner pointed to important data points plateauing or dropping, including intensive care unit (ICU) bed usage and hospitalizations related to the coronavirus.
Hospitalizations have dropped 70 percent due to the virus since May 8, county officials said in a news release. The intensive care population due to the virus has fallen 93 percent, and acute care bed use has dropped 65 percent.
Ten new positive cases of COVID-19 were reported on Tuesday, and one death was reported, bringing the county's death toll to 108.
Thirty-four deaths were reported statewide on Tuesday, in addition to 344 new COVID-19 cases. That is on par with the increase of 331 cases from the day prior.
Hospitalizations decreased for the 19th day in a row, putting the state's total at 742 hospitalizations, down three from Monday.
As of Tuesday morning, Gardner said there was one person in an ICU unit as a COVID patient. The county's positivity rate has also continued to drop, Gardner said.
Frederick County and Maryland reported positivity rates of 6.3 and 6.2 percent, respectively. By comparison, the positivity rate on May 16 was 14.87 percent.
"I still do want to express caution as we move forward," Gardner said. "We've certainly seen that re-openings have created an increase in cases and hospitalizations in some other states. ... The last thing we want to have happen is for us to take a step backwards."
Gardner has said several times that Hogan's Roadmap to Recovery has stop signs in case there are spikes in hospitalizations, ICU beds, or other important data points related to the coronavirus, as more businesses and services begin to reopen.
Large gatherings are still discouraged, Gardner said, as they are one of the leading risks for spreading the coronavirus. People need to continue to wear face coverings and social distance, she added.
It's important for counties and the state to move "in unison" if businesses need to be shut down again because of spikes or a second wave of the coronavirus, Gardner said. Shutting down larger gatherings and events — once they are allowed again — would be the first step she would take to curb the spread countywide, if that happens.
"Certainly, we're trying to find a balance ... to protect public health, but also to support our economic health and our mental health," Gardner said. "And so, that is part of what weighs into all of these decisions."
"It is really going to be up to all of us, and taking personal responsibility and personal actions ... We need to be doing that until we find a vaccination or another effective treatment for the coronavirus," Gardner said.
Hogan announced a new large testing facility at the Baltimore Convention Center, which will be open on Wednesday and Friday. Meanwhile, he encouraged people to utilize the more than 150 testing sites across the state if they have attended a large gathering or may have been exposed.
“As more people are returning to the workplace, and as more people are beginning to interact with larger numbers of people, testing will become more critical than ever," Hogan said.
Residents do not need to exhibit symptoms or meet certain criteria in order to be tested. Most testing centers require an appointment in advance, however. Drive-thru testing is available in Frederick at the Walmart on Guilford Drive, and the CVS pharmacies at Liberty Road and West Patrick Street.
Other medical clinics are also providing the tests. Are all tests are free.