Hogan: ‘We Have Now Crossed Over Into the Danger Zone’

Gov. Larry Hogan warned at a news conference Tuesday that Maryland’s health metrics “have worsened considerably” since he addressed the state a week ago.

As a result, Hogan announced that starting Wednesday at 5 p.m., capacity at all bars and restaurants in Maryland must be reduced from 75% to 50%. He said that the Maryland Health Department is issuing a public health advisory “strongly warning” against gatherings with more than 25 people.

Montgomery County currently enforces stricter coronavirus orders than the state’s amended order—starting Tuesday, fitness centers, indoor food establishments, museums, art galleries, retail establishments, and religious facilities cannot exceed 25% capacity. Moreover, gatherings with more than 25 people are prohibited.

County Executive Marc Elrich was critical of the governor’s amended orders on Twitter.

Elrich tweeted after Hogan’s news conference, “Wish he’d been more aggressive scaling back and used the word ‘must’ rather than ‘should’. We tamped the virus down under his stage 1, stage 2 led to increases and then there was 3. Not sure this will push cases down as much as we need to, if at all. Would love to be wrong here.”

In the past, Hogan has been critical of Montgomery County leadership during the coronavirus, urging the county to move to stage 3 of reopening (it never did), and issuing an emergency order in August to prevent Montgomery County from requiring private schools from staying closed.

On Tuesday, Hogan took a less combative approach at county executives in the state, encouraging local leaders to enact stricter coronavirus actions.

“They can and they should enforce those actions,” Hogan said, adding that the state will support the local actions.

Hogan Warns Maryland is Entering Red Zone

Hogan said at Tuesday’s news confe there’s widespread community transmission in areas of the state where the spread of COVID-19 hasn’t been as rampant. (Hogan did not mention Montgomery County as an area where cases are rising at an alarming level.)

Maryland’s current average statewide testing positivity rate is 5.05%, Hogan said, adding that for the last week the state has seen an increase of more than 1,000 new coronavirus cases per day. Maryland currently is seeing its highest hospitalization rates since June.

“We cannot afford to ignore these trends and patterns,” Hogan said. “We have now crossed over into the danger zone.”

Hogan said contact tracers are finding that much of the spread is coming from people attending large family gatherings and people traveling out of state. Also, too many people are hosting large gatherings, refusing to wear masks, and Hogan criticized counties that are being lenient when it comes to enforcing coronavirus regulations.

In the Maryland Health Department’s expanded health advisory, Marylanders are “strongly advised against” traveling to states with a testing positivity rate above 10%, or to states with a rate of 20 per 100,000 case rate. The advisory also advises employers to encourage teleworking.

Maryland Health Department also issued an emergency order for hospital surge planning by adding alternative care site capacity and providing staffing support for clinical care and nursing homes.

Hogan said nursing home staff still needs to remain vigilant and Marylanders need to get a COVID-19 test before visiting a relative in a nursing home. Hogan is requiring all nursing homes to prepare a PPE stockpile for winter months in case of COVID-19 surge.

“All of our existing health orders and new health orders carry the full force of the law” and must be enforced, Hogan said. Violators run the risk of jail time. The state is encouraging the full enforcement of orders.

Hogan reminded county leaders that Dec. 30 is the deadline to spend CARES Act funding, and county leaders should therefore take advantage of using it for their relief efforts.

“This virus does not care if you’re tired of it, it does not care if you have holiday plans, it doesn’t care who you voted for,” Hogan said. “Marylanders crushed the curve before and we can and we will do it again with your help.”

Delbridge: Peak Times Include December, January, February

Dr. Ted Delbridge from Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems spoke at Hogan’s news conference Tuesday. He said Maryland’s coronavirus surge peak times could include December, January, and February.

“The effects of those are a little more challenging to predict,” Delbridge said. The state is concerned this will be a “longer lasting peak” than was experienced in the spring.

He urged Marylanders to get a flu vaccine.

“It is just so incredibly important…that people get a flu shot,” Delbridge said. This will keep people out of the hospital with the flu, Delbridge said.

Hogan Comments on Trump, Republicans Not Acknowledging Biden as President-Elect

Reporters asked Hogan questions about President Donald Trump not agreeing to a peaceful transition of power and conceding losing the presidential race. Hogan was one of the first elected Republican officials to congratulate Joe Biden on being elected the next president.

Here’s a look at how Hogan’s responses to some of those questions:

Related Post:

Neall Becomes 2nd Top State Health Official to Retire During Pandemic

After Dispute Over Private Schools, County Still Unclear on its Authority to Make Closures

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About Deirdre Byrne

Deirdre Byrne is a social media coordinator for Montgomery Community Media. She can be reached at dbyrne@mymcmedia.org or on twitter at @DeirdreByrneMCM.

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