ANNAPOLIS — Gov. Larry Hogan Monday ordered all non-essential businesses to close Monday as part of an effort to further slow the spread of COVID-19 in Maryland.
The number of confirmed cases in Maryland rose to 288 from 244 a day earlier. The governor said some of the sights of visitors to see the cherry blossoms in D.C. or walk the beach and boardwalk in Ocean City and in parks was proof that many were not taking the threat seriously or abiding by the call to limit their social interactions.
Hogan said the “irresponsible behavior” necessitated “further aggressive actions will be taken by state and local authorities to disperse these gatherings,” said Hogan.
“I saw pictures that were just make your toes curl over the weekend,” said Hogan. “Not just in our state but across the country. People just ignoring the directive.”
But Hogan stopped short of issuing a shelter-in-place order as other states have done and called such moves matters of semantics.
“So, it’s a little bit apples to oranges,”said Hogan. “I think our actions are more aggressive than other states that have issued shelter in place but it’s not as, we don’t think it’s as draconian as locking people in their homes but stopping the places where they gather and stopping the places where they go is probably a better, smarter action for us. But we’re going to continue to look at decisions every day.”
Meanwhile, the governor said the state is looking for ways to be more self-reliant. Hogan said he was thankful for federal assistance but in some cases said it wasn’t enough nor coming as fast as he and other states need.
“However, Maryland is not going to rely or wait on action from the federal government,” said Hogan, “as we have time and time again we will continue to lead and continue to take action in this crisis.”
During a conference call with governors last week, President Donald Trump called on states to step up their own efforts to obtain critical equipment such as personal protection gear and masks and ventilators, saying the federal government “was not a shipping clerk.”
Hogan said the governors plan to push Trump and his administration again on Monday for more equipment.
“I’d like to hear that we’re making more progress on these needs for test kits, on PPEs on ventilators, on masks and (other) priority requests, said Hogan, adding: “There’s been a little bit of progress but not nearly enough and not fast enough.”
Maryland has yet to make a decision on further school closings as the school systems enter the start of the second scheduled week of closures. On Monday, neighboring Virginia announced that schools around the state would be closed for the rest of the current academic year.
So far, Hogan said he is unaware of any arrests involving people in Maryland who have ignored his orders. The increased enforcement, he said, will focus more on moving people along rather than arresting them, if possible.
“You may see police cars lighting up their sirens and going on their loudspeakers saying please disperse,” he said. “I’d rather see that step, encouraging people that this is not safe.”
The new executive order closes all businesses not defined Thursday by the federal government as critical infrastructure. Businesses deemed critical include health care, food, construction, agriculture, financial services and critical manufacturing.
“Let me be clear, we’re not issuing or ordering a shelter-in-place directive or forcing people to stay home,” said Hogan. “However, we are telling all Marylanders to follow all of the directives we’ve already issued and to follow state law against crowds of more than 10 people. And we are telling you that unless you have an essential reason to leave your house, then you should stay in your homes.
“Today’s actions of closing non-essential businesses are absolutely necessary to protect the health of Marylanders and to save lives,” he said.
The Maryland National Guard and the state Health Department are establishing a pilot drive-thru testing facility at FedEx Field in Landover. Hogan said five additional sites at vehicle emissions testing facilities could be opened as soon as the state receives enough tests, protect equipment and lab capability.
Hogan also issued a new executive order prohibiting price-gouging on essential items.
“Retailers who attempt to exploit this crisis for profit and gain will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” he said.