Gov. Hogan limits restaurant capacity, advises against indoor gatherings in Maryland
Gov. Larry Hogan ordered limited restaurant capacity and warned Marylanders against indoor events and out-of-state travel Tuesday as COVID-19 cases in Maryland continued to soar to alarming levels.
"Today I'm reporting that we have crossed over into the danger zone," Hogan said at a news conference in Annapolis. "Too many residents and businesses have COVID fatigue, and they've begun letting their guard down."
Hogan's new order cuts restaurant capacity from 75 percent to 50 percent, effective at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
The Maryland Department of Health also issued new advisories warning against indoor gatherings of 25 or more people and traveling to states also seeing COVID-19 spikes.
"This applies to all personal, family or business travel of any kind," Hogan said. "You should immediately postpone or cancel travel to any of these states with spiking metrics."
Hogan said this includes eight states with a positivity rate above 10 percent and 35 states with case rates above 20 per 100,000 people.
All state employees who can telework will be required to do so, Hogan said, and employers are encouraged to minimize in-person work.
New restrictions will be strictly enforced, Hogan says
Hogan warned new coronavirus restrictions will be strictly enforced.
"This virus does not care if you're tired of it," Hogan said. "It does not care if you have holiday plans. It doesn't care who you voted for. And it will not let us move on just because we all desperately want to get back to our normal pre-COVID lives."
Hogan also announced that the state health department is activating the next level of hospital surge capacity as hospitalizations continue to rise.
Dr. Ted Delbridge, the executive director of the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems, said hospitals are seeing more patients as flu season gets underway and some people who deferred medical visits earlier in the pandemic seek care now.
"I cannot overemphasize the critical importance of getting a flu vaccine for each of us," Delbridge said. "It's valuable for our own health and those around us. It's not too late."
Restrictions follow COVID-19 surge, rise in hospitializations
Tuesday was Maryland's seventh-consecutive day of 1,000 or more daily cases, making the past week the most sustained surge in daily cases that Maryland has seen during the pandemic.
The largest recent spike in cases came Friday when the state total jumped by more than 1,500 infections, marking the third-highest, single-day case total since the state started tracking the numbers.
Maryland COVID-19:Gov. Larry Hogan warns of COVID-19 surge in Maryland
Before Nov. 4, Maryland's daily case numbers hadn't topped 1,000 since the beginning of August.
The state's positivity rate, or the percent of positive cases out of tests completed, has also jumped above 5 percent for the first time since June. The World Health Organization recommends that communities have a positivity rate of 5 percent or lower for 14 days before reopening after a shutdown.
Hospitalizations are also up, the state data shows. As of Tuesday, more than 760 hospital beds statewide are in use by COVID-19 patients, up from a low of 281 in mid-September.
COVID-19 updates:Marylanders can now get COVID-19 exposure alerts on their phones
Earlier Tuesday, the state Department of Health announced the launch of MD COVID Alert, an exposure notification system available on smartphones.
Last week, Hogan said that "the warning lights are starting to flash on the dashboard" during a news conference on a surge in cases. He urged Marylanders to wear masks and take other safety precautions.
Some local jurisdictions, such as Baltimore City and Montgomery County, have already moved to add new coronavirus restrictions in light of the rising case numbers.
Reporter Rose Velazquez contributed to this report.
Madeleine O'Neill covers the Maryland State House for the USA Today Network. She can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @maddioneill.