Gov. Larry Hogan on Wednesday quietly renewed the state of emergency declaration he enacted in March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic even as the state continues to show signs it’s succeeding in slowing the spread of the potentially deadly illness.
Hogan initially declared an emergency on March 5 after the first three cases of the novel coronavirus were confirmed in Maryland. Enacting an emergency status broadens a governor’s powers to confront a crisis, ranging from transferring money from the state rainy day fund to ordering mandatory evacuations.
“While unfortunately we’re seeing rising numbers (of COVID-19 infections) in states across the nation, the number here in Maryland, the metrics, continue to trend in a positive direction,” Hogan said Wednesday during the Board of Public Works meeting.
A spokesman for the governor did not respond to a request for comment on the extension of the emergency declaration, which under state law must be renewed every 30 days to stay in effect.
Since Hogan declared a state of emergency, Maryland’s Department of Health has confirmed nearly 68,500 cases of the respiratory illness and 3,086 deaths as of Thursday.
After enacting the emergency declaration Hogan issued a stay-at-home order and closed non-essential businesses for weeks in a bid to blunt an expected surge in cases of the illness and associated deaths.
In March the number of confirmed cases surged from three to 1,660 roughly 25 days later. By the end of April the number of verified infections grew to 21,742. In May another 29,300 residents contracted the diseases, but the pace slowed to 14,233 new cases in June.
During that Maryland has substantially ramped up its testing, and the percentage of residents testing positive for the disease has also subsequently declined.
In April, a month after the state of emergency was extended, the median number of people a day tested for COVID-19 hit 3,508. At that time the median percentage of positive tests a day approached 25%.
The median number of residents tested daily for the COVID-19 in June reached 9,748 with a middle percentage of daily positive tests of 5.27%. The median percentage of daily positive tests declined throughout the month dropping from 7.5% during the first full week of the month to 4.85% during the last full week of the month.
Hogan, in late May, started to ease restrictions and allow jurisdictions around the state to begin returning to normal operations.
By then, business groups and a number of residents and public officials, predominantly in the state’s rural regions, had raised concerns about the restrictions. A lawsuit filed to halt the governor’s orders was rejected by a judge, a ruling that is being appealed.
While other states that never implemented the level of restrictions put in place in Maryland, and subsequently removed those limited regulations quicker, are battling a surge of COVID-19 cases, loosening restrictions in Maryland has not yet resulted in a surge of infections.
Over the past two weeks the median number of new infections dropped to 338 confirmed cases a day down from 500 the previous two weeks.
While the battle against the disease in Maryland is trending the right way, Hogan urged residents to remain vigilant, and warned Marylanders, especially younger people, not to act cavalierly.
“I still want to continue to caution the people of Maryland … this crisis is not behind us,” Hogan said.