On a near-perfect weather day for early November —sunny and in the 70s —diners at Sabor De Cuba on East Patrick Street in downtown Frederick were able to enjoy their meals and the pleasant conditions from their sidewalk tables Tuesday.
But this luxury isn't likely to last much longer, which concerns Maikel Gattorno, the restaurant's part-owner and chef.
"Once the cold weather starts, people don't go out as much," Gattorno said. "We are going to need the indoor capacity to be at least 50 percent, maybe 75 [to remain viable]."
On Tuesday evening, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) threw a wrench into those plans when he restricted restaurant capacity at Maryland's restaurants and bars to 50 percent in order to combat the long-predicted fall resurgence of the novel coronavirus.
Hogan had expanded capacity to 75 percent on Sept 18. County Executive Jan Gardner initially balked at the move, keeping Frederick County restaurant and bars at 50 percent capacity before raising it to 75 on Oct. 2.
Asked if he was worried the latest round of restrictions might knock him out of business, Gattorno replied, "Well, yeah. Another round of this [virus] could take anyone out."
Hogan felt like he had little choice, declaring at his evening press conference from the Governor's Reception Room at the State House in Annapolis that Maryland had crossed into another danger zone in the pandemic.
There were more than 1,000 COVID-19 infections reported statewide for a seventh consecutive day, according to the Maryland Department of Health.
With 1,338 new cases added, Maryland was now saddled with 156,709 confirmed COVID-19 infections. That includes 5,257 cases in Frederick County, which reported more than 40 cases (46) for a fourth consecutive day.
Sitting at an emptier-than-usual bar Tuesday night at JoJo's Restaurant & Tap House on East Patrick Street, Tony Caraballo, 30, of Frederick, said, "On a normal night, when it's 70 degrees in November, this place would be absolutely [hopping]."
Asked about the further restrictions imposed by Hogan on bars and restaurants, Caraballo, who owns Golden Spring Landscaping near Monrovia, said he wasn't sure how some would stay in business.
"I am not acting like I know what to do," he said. "But I can't see how this is healthy for the business community downtown."
Hospitalizations and the seven-day rolling positivity rate continued their upward trajectory Tuesday, reaching levels not seen since the middle of June.
There were 761 Maryland residents hospitalized by COVID-19 on Tuesday, including 176 in intensive care.
The state reported 12 more virus-related deaths, bringing the overall number to 4,084. The death toll in Frederick County remained unchanged at 132.
At Frederick Health Hospital, there were 18 coronavirus patients being treated, including one in intensive care.
Meanwhile, the positivity rate stood at 5.24 percent in the state and 4.42 percent in Frederick County.
It's a dramatic increase over the last month. On Oct. 11, the positivity rate was 2.76 percent in the county and 2.12 percent in the county.
"We cannot afford to ignore these trends and patterns," Hogan said. "Too many residents and businesses have COVID fatigue. Sadly, as a result, the virus has returned to the state in a big way."
Hogan warned Maryland residents about the dangers of gathering in groups of 25 or more and traveling to other parts of the country with dramatically rising coronavirus case numbers.
He said all residents that have traveled to heavily infected areas should get tested and isolate themselves.
"This must be an all-hands-on-deck effort," he said.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Frederick County restaurants were already operating at 50 percent capacity in the lead-up to Gov. Larry Hogan's announcement Tuesday. Frederick restaurants had been operating at 75 percent capacity since early October, according to county officials.