Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan. (AP Photo)
By Kaitlyn Francis
Capital News Service
COLLEGE PARK, Md. — A national surge in coronavirus cases and the highest positivity rate in Maryland since June has caused Gov. Larry Hogan to implement some restrictions and prepare for hospital surges while bracing against a trend officials say is concerning.
Over 150,000 confirmed cases and 4,084 deaths have been reported in Maryland as of Tuesday, with a 5.24% testing positivity rate. The state crossed the 5% mark on Monday — the first time since June.
“More people are getting infected with the virus, more people are being hospitalized, more people are going into intensive care, and more Marylanders are dying,” Hogan, R, said Tuesday, saying the new efforts “…are absolutely necessary to help us withstand this surge, to save lives, and to keep Maryland on the road to recovery and open for business.”
The governor announced that Maryland has not entered the red zone set by the federal government for testing positivity, but has for the number of cases by population.
He said Maryland’s case rate is still lower than 40 other states as of Tuesday.
Hogan, pointing to some packed bars and restaurants in the state, along with large social gatherings, announced that starting Wednesday at 5 p.m. restaurants and bars must operate at a 50% capacity, down from 75%.
The Maryland Department of Health issued a health advisory against having 25 people or more at an indoor gathering.
A travel advisory was issued, strongly advising all Marylanders against non-essential travel to any states that have average case rates of at least 20 per 100,000 or a testing positivity rate above 10%.
State employees who are approved to telework, essential personnel excused, should begin another period of mandatory telework, Hogan said.
There have been more than 1,000 new cases per day for seven consecutive days in Maryland, Hogan said on Tuesday.
COVID-19 hospitalizations reached a record high of over 59,000 people on Monday across the nation.
The Maryland Department of Health issued an emergency order on Tuesday to start the next level of surge capacity in hospitals and to have the plans ready for when hospitals reach a critical threshold, Hogan said.
Maryland hospitalizations surged to 761 patients as of Tuesday, the highest since June 17.
Hogan on Thursday had addressed the spiking numbers across the state and country, warning that the state had reached a pivotal moment in the fight against the pandemic.
“Last week I reported the warning lights were starting to flash on the dashboard,” said Hogan. “We have now crossed over into the danger zone.”
Wearing a mask is the single, best way to fight the virus, according to Hogan.
“Just wear the damn masks,” Hogan said Thursday.
He said that this new surge in cases was predicted in the spring and that the worst is to come during the holidays. The prediction models show that December, January and February are expected to be the peak times, said Dr. Ted Delbridge from the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems.
The governor discouraged getting together with family and friends during the holidays.
“Family gatherings and social gatherings are the most likely source of transmission,” Hogan said.
The Maryland Department of Health submitted a plan to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for obtaining and administering a vaccine as soon as it becomes available, Hogan said Thursday.