Gov. Larry Hogan announced the reopening of outdoor seating and service for restaurants, starting at 5 p.m. Friday.
Additionally, outdoor pools, youth camps and drive-in movies can reopen in some capacity, Hogan said at a news briefing Wednesday.
For restaurants, Hogan said no more than six people should be seated at outdoor tables, and those tables must be properly separated. He said restaurants should use disposable menus or sanitize menus in between uses. Face masks and coverings should be used for interactions between customers and servers and/or restaurant staff, he said.
Hogan also said communities should explore closing public streets and using parking lots to allow for more outdoor seating for restaurants.
“We love the idea of closing streets for outside seating in little Italy and Fells Point in Baltimore city, on West Street and Main Street in Annapolis, on Bethesda Row, and in other towns across the state,” Hogan said of some examples.
Hogan also said some youth camp activities and youth sports activities will be allowed starting Friday, as long as social distancing and other CDC guidelines are followed. Outdoor pools can open at 25 percent capacity on Friday, along with drive-in movie theaters, Hogan said.
“Our coronavirus recovery team will be continuing to watch all of the data very closely, and if these encouraging trends continue into next week, we would then be in a position to begin entering stage two of our recovery,” Hogan said.
The announcement, Hogan said, was based on steady declines in hospitalizations and intensive care unit numbers. However, hospitalizations, while at their lowest since April 20, are on a two-day increase.
Hogan cited a steady decline over 28 days for intensive care unit numbers, but ICU numbers saw their highest numbers 16 days ago, when numbers reached 611. The following days also saw high ICU numbers.
Hospitalizations were on a 10-day decline before Tuesday, when the Maryland Department of Health reported an increase of 36 hospitalizations. On Wednesday, the state health department reported an increase of 23.
There are currently 1,338 people hospitalized due to COVID-19.
The rise Wednesday comes in acute care numbers, which saw an increase of 23. Intensive care numbers did not change.
In addition to increases in hospitalizations, the Maryland Department of Health reported the largest increase in COVID-19 deaths in eight days. Deaths rose by 53, bringing the total number of deaths to 2,270.
Not all jurisdictions will open, Hogan said, as he has left that decision to their leaders. Howard County is just now implementing the beginning of phase one on Friday. Prince George’s County is under a stay-at-home order until June 1.
Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner is scheduled to announce further plans about reopening at a news briefing Thursday at 2 p.m. Currently, retail stores under 10,000 square feet can open at 50 percent capacity, and barbershops, salons and religious buildings are scheduled to open under the governor’s guidelines Friday at 5 p.m.
Hogan issued a warning to those not following social distancing, saying that if more continue to not practice it, there could be spikes.
“But thankfully the vast majority of our citizens clearly understand that while doing things like avoiding crowds and practicing physical distancing and wearing masks may be inconvenient, that these are some of the best tools that we have to continue to slow the spread of the virus and to put us in a position to rebuild and restore our economy and to finally defeat this invisible enemy,” Hogan said. “Time and time again during this difficult period, Marylanders have stepped up and risen to meet this unprecedented challenge.”