Gov. Larry Hogan announced another sweeping round of new measures to combat the new coronavirus Thursday morning. His edict came just moments after disclosing the first death in the state due to the illness and first child diagnosed with the virus.
Hogan said the child is a 5-year-old girl in Howard County who tested positive, and the man who died was in his 60s, from Prince George’s County and had underlying medical conditions. He acquired the COVID-19 through community transmission.
Hogan then announced the following measures, along with other actions:
- At 5 p.m. Thursday, all enclosed shopping malls and entertainment venues will close indefinitely.
- Following updated CDC guidelines, gatherings of more than 10 people in public spaces are prohibited statewide.
- BWI Airport is restricting access to the public, unless you are a ticketed passenger, badged employee or helping flyers with disabilities.
- Travel on MARC, Metro, Amtrak or state buses is restricted to “emergency personnel” or people critical to the supply chain of getting medical supplies and other needs to hospitals and similar facilities.
- Increasing the weight limits on trucks by up to 15 percent to ensure they can deliver medical supplies due to the surge in demand in the medical field.
- Restaurants, bars, breweries, wineries and distilleries can offer carryout and delivery of alcohol, subject to local liquor laws.
Hogan also signed emergency legislation Wednesday requiring health care providers and Medicaid to provide monetary assistance for coronavirus testing and a vaccine if one is developed. The legislation also gives the state Department of Health “more flexibility” with staffing regarding the emergency and prohibits retailers from price gouging for essential goods, among other actions.
Hogan emphasized that people should stay home if they can to avoid the spread of the coronavirus.
“Some people are treating this like a vacation. ... Let me be very clear, if you are engaged in this type of activity, you are in violation of state law and you are endangering the lives of your fellow Marylanders,” Hogan said of the more than 10-person order.
Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner (D) seconded that statement in an interview Thursday.
“I really think one of the most important roles that we have as county leaders is to ask people to follow the rules,” Gardner said. “As the governor said today, this is not a snow day, this is not vacation time. We need people to stay home, and staying home is a civic duty.”
Hogan also said as of Thursday, more than 900 additional beds are available in hospitals and other medical care centers statewide, and by early April officials expect that number to grow to 1,400.
He also issued an executive order that allows emergency medical service personnel to more easily work with health care providers.
Fielding questions from reporters, Hogan said he doesn’t want to impose a statewide lockdown yet.
“We’re trying to avoid locking down society, and we’re trying to keep things as normal as possible,” Hogan said.
He praised people across the state for helping others in need during the pandemic.
“This truly is one of the most daunting challenges that our state has ever faced, but sometimes the worst times have a way of bringing out the very best in people, and Marylanders are the best example,” he said.