Child care providers across Maryland can return to full capacity, per their license, effective immediately, after an announcement from Gov. Larry Hogan and State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon Thursday.
There have been no spikes in COVID-19 cases since child care facilities were able to increase their capacity from 10 to 15 children per room in June, Salmon said.
“We have seen very few positive COVID cases in our child care facilities,” Salmon said. “With most school systems remaining in a period of virtual learning or a hybrid model, we understand that the demand for available child care remains very high.”
More than 80 percent of child care facilities and programs have already re-opened, but with restricted capacity, Salmon said. To incentivize more programs to reopen, a one-time $800 grant will be available for family-care providers and a one-time $1,600 grant will be available for center-based child care providers. Additionally, the Maryland State Department of Education will provide $1,000 start-up grants to new family home care providers.
Salmon said she hopes lifting the capacity restriction will limit some of the unregulated and illegal child care provides that have sprung up as “pandemic pods” around the state.
In addition to expanded child care, Hogan also announced, effective immediately, indoor visitation will be allowed in all nursing homes that are either not experiencing a current outbreak of COVID-19 cases or that have not had any new positive cases in the last 14 days.
These announcements came as the state continues to report good health metrics. For the first time since March 28, the state reported on Thursday that there were zero new COVID-19 deaths within the past 24 hours.
While Hogan dictated the favorable news, he also reminded Marylanders that flu season is starting.
“The beginning of fall and the changing weather marks the beginning of the flu season. The First Lady and I have already gotten our flu shots, and I want to again strongly encourage all Marylanders to do the same,” Hogan said.
When asked if he is concerned about a possible resurgence of coronavirus cases as winter approaches, Hogan said he and others are, and that teams are working to prevent it.
“We’re doing better than most states across the country...I think because of the great work of a whole team of people making smart decisions, and thanks to the people of Maryland who have been really vigilant,” Hogan said. “I wouldn’t say we’re not concerned about a potential problem in the fall, but right now, our health metrics could not possibly be any better.”
Hogan was also asked about restaurants and outdoor dining — an activity that will become more and more difficult as the weather gets colder.
The governor said he is concerned about the impact the colder weather will have on restaurants and small businesses, but he can’t force people to eat indoors.
“The polling shows that a pretty large majority of people do not want to go back and eat inside of a restaurant ... Until there’s a vaccine, some people are not going to feel safe,” he said. “Our health department has put out terrific guidance, they’ve provided flexibility, plexiglass dividers between booths, increasing the capacity, but we can’t make people go back to the restaurants.”