ANNAPOLIS — Reimposed restrictions are coming to bars, restaurants, churches, shops and other retail businesses as the coronavirus surges across the state of Maryland
Gov. Larry Hogan announced the changes, which include limiting nursing home visits and a plan to move some patients from crowded hospitals around the state, as Maryland posted a second day of new cases in excess of 2,000 and saw hospitalizations surge to levels not seen since early June.
“We are in a war and the virus is winning,” said Hogan. “Now more than ever, I’m pleading with the people of our state to stand together a while longer and help us battle this surging virus. Your family and friends are counting on you. Your neighbors are counting on you and your fellow Marylanders are counting on you to stay Maryland strong.”
Hogan Tuesday announced that all bars and restaurants will be required to close to indoor seating at 10 p.m. Currently, those establishments are limited to 50% capacity, though some jurisdictions including Baltimore City have lower capacity limits. Also, no patrons are allowed to be served unless they are seated. Restrictions take effect 5 p.m. Friday.
Hogan said recent contact tracing showed “a large uptick” of the virus in Marylanders who recently visited a bar or restaurant.
“We’ve seen widespread failures to follow public health orders and advisories statewide,” said the governor.
Hogan said the decision was made “based on increasing reports that compliance with public health protocols dropped dramatically later in the evening.” He attributed that drop to people “drinking for a long time in a bar.”
Additionally, the governor reinstated lower capacity limits on stores and churches and other establishments including bowling alleys, skating rinks, bingo halls and gyms to 50%. The new restriction goes into effect on Friday at 5 p.m.
The governor also banned fans from stands at college and professional sporting contests. The Baltimore Ravens announced Monday that they would not allow fans to attend Sunday’s game.
Hogan announced the restrictions on the same day the state reported 2,149 additional confirmed infections. It is the second time in four days that the state has exceeded 2,000 infections in a 24-hour period. In some cases, the measurements of the spread of COVID-19 meet or exceed those last seen earlier in the year when the state was still under phase one and phase two restrictions but recovering from the early spring surge.
But as those measurements rise as the cold weather forces more indoor activities, Hogan’s approach has appeared to move away from the phased in approach he developed in the spring.
“What we thought was the best advice in March or April or June or July or August or September is different from the advice we’re getting today based on all of those changing things,” said Hogan. “We’re just, we don’t want to use an old metric to deal with today’s battle.
The rolling seven-day average for new daily cases is now 1,871, a new high replacing yesterday’s record setting number. The average daily cases is now nearly 46.4% higher than Nov.10 and more than double the average on Nov. 3. This is the fourteenth consecutive day of 1,000 ore more cases and the ninth straight day the state has set a record for 1,000 or more cases.
Overall hospitalizations remain below their peak in the pandemic, 1,711 on April 30. The number of acute patients is below the peak of 1,121 on April 30. The number of ICU patients is below the peak of 611 on May 10. These categories, however, have sharply increased since Sept 20.
Hospitalizations continue to climb.
Total hospitalizations increased by 61 to 1,046, the most since June 6 and the first time the state has been over 1,000 since June 7.
Total acute patients in the state increased by 43 people to 791, the most since May 28. Total ICU patients increased by 18 patients to 255 — the fifth straight day above 200 and the most since June 19.
Deaths, a lagging indicator, increased by 26 to 4,160. This is the most deaths reported in a single 24-hour period since June 16. The state is on pace for 349 deaths in November, exceeding the 195 deaths recorded in October and on pace to post its first month of 300 or more deaths since July.
And while Maryland is better off right now than some other states, Hogan said there is need for immediate action.
“This virus has been with us for so long that too many of us have become numb to the staggering spiking numbers that are being announced every day,” said Hogan. “It does not matter how well we have one for all these months. If we falter now, and if we fail to take this seriously, we will look just like all those other states and this deadly virus will strengthen its grip on our state and our nation.”
Hogan said the state was also issuing a number of emergency health orders including:
- Ordering hospitals to restrict hospital visitation statewide, with some exemptions.
- Warning hospitals to avoid elective procedures that aren’t urgent or life-saving.
- Limited visitation at Maryland nursing homes, with proof of negative test within 72 hours of visit.
- Mandatory, twice-weekly testing for staff at Maryland nursing homes, and mandatory weekly testing for nursing home residents.
The governor said the state would also implement a plan that would allow hospitals around the state that are nearing capacity, or full, may transfer patients to other hospitals that are able to provide care.
“It’s built on solid triage and disaster management principals,” said Dr. Thomas Scalea, physician-in-chief of shock trauma at the University of Maryland Medical Center, adding that the plan will be an example for other regions and states.
“Once again, Maryland will lead the way,” he said.
Many of these facilities are in rural areas that did not experience the same surge in the spring that more urban areas of the state. Allegany , Garrett and Washington Counties, all rural western Maryland jurisdictions, report the highest number of cases per 100,000 residents in the state.
Hogan said those living in rural areas may have allowed themselves to be lulled into a false sense of security.
“And they maybe weren’t being as careful and not paying as much attention and maybe not wearing masks and not following the advice,” said Hogan. “And now, they’re calling us begging for help and we’re sending strike teams and we’re trying to move patients out of their overflowing hospitals and we’re talking with local leaders. So, it has changed. It just shows that it doesn’t matter where you live or what demographic group you happen to fall into, this virus doesn’t care. It doesn’t recognize county borders or state borders. It’s coming for all of us and we’ve got to be as vigilant as possible.”