Gov. Larry Hogan on Tuesday announced limits to operating hours for restaurants and bars and reduced indoor capacity from 75 to 50 percent for retail businesses in an attempt to curb further spread of the coronavirus.
The changes go into effect at 5 p.m. Friday. Bars, restaurants, nightclubs and similar businesses must close between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., he said.
"It was based on the best public health advice from some of the smartest doctors and scientists in the world," Hogan (R) said of the new restrictions. "People are just less likely to follow public health advice after 10 [p.m.] after drinking a long time in a bar."
Takeout and delivery are encouraged at those establishments, Hogan said. The capacity reduction to 50 percent includes, but is not limited to, retail shops, religious facilities, personal services, bingo halls, bowling alleys and fitness centers.
Hogan made the announcement as Maryland reported 2,149 new cases of COVID-19 and 26 additional deaths on Tuesday. There are now more than 1,000 people hospitalized across the state, including 255 in intensive care, because of the virus.
At multiple points during the Tuesday afternoon press conference, the governor called on all Marylanders to treat the virus seriously. He appeared upset that many people statewide refuse to accept the severity of the pandemic.
"Regardless of all the disinformation that's being spread all over social media, this is not the flu," Hogan said. "It's not fake news. It's not going to magically disappear just because we're all tired of it and we want our normal lives back."
Hogan was joined Tuesday by Dr. Tom Scalea, who described how Maryland hospitals are going to handle a possible second surge and increased capacity demands due to a growing number of cases.
Scalea, who is physician-in-chief of the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center, delivered his remarks in scrubs as he has just finished work in an operating room before arriving at the State House.
"I've been doing this for a long time and I don't remember learning this much about a single disease over such a short period of time ... That doesn't mean that everybody lives though. It means we're a lot better. We [have] a bunch more weapons," Scalea said.
One of the other issues the governor noted Tuesday is half or more of people who are contacted as part of the state's contact tracing efforts refuse to provide information. That response is troubling, Hogan said.
"This is not big brother," Hogan said. "We're not trying to track you. We're trying to stop the virus and stop you from infecting people you come in contact with."
Hogan said in order to avoid more hospitalizations and deaths because of the coronavirus, Marylanders must follow public health protocols like wearing a mask and social distancing.
"It does not matter how well we have done for all these months," Hogan said. "If we falter now, and if we fail to take this seriously ... this deadly virus will strengthen its grip on our state and our nation."
Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner (D) said she shares Hogan's heightened concerns over the rising case counts and hospitalizations, specifically pointing out the 87 new cases in Frederick Tuesday was a record daily figure.
“I also share a plea to our residents to do their part and wear their face masks, physical distance and wash their hands,” Gardner said in a statement to the News-Post. “We are entering a very critical and dangerous time at the beginning of a rapidly increasing surge of cases and we need decisive action now to try to get in front of it. Today, in Frederick ... hospitalizations are up to 30 beds compared to eight beds a month ago. While none of us want to see actions to restrict our economy, I appreciate and support the governor’s decisions today to add limitations to confront the spread of the virus.”