Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) issued a mandatory stay-at-home order on Monday, after a dire weekend that included an outbreak of the novel coronavirus at a Mount Airy nursing home and the diagnosis of Maryland’s youngest patient to date, a 1-month-old infant.
The mandate comes as the spread of COVID-19 has dramatically increased in recent days throughout Maryland and the region.
“We have reached a critical turning point in the fight to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” Hogan said Monday.
As of Monday morning, there were 1,413 confirmed coronavirus cases in the state, and at least 15 Marylanders had died from the disease.
Throughout Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia, the number of cases quadrupled in the past week and 51 people have died. As of Monday morning, there were 2,709 confirmed cases in the three jurisdictions.
Virginia and the District of Columbia also announced stay-at-home orders on Monday. At least 30 states had ordered all residents to stay home as of Monday evening.
Hogan stressed the importance of the national capital region ― home to more than 400,000 federal workers and key government health care agencies ―in fighting the virus’ spread. He and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) and Virginia Gov. Ralph S. Northam (D) continued to press the federal government on Monday to establish a regional testing site focused on federal workers.
“The Washington region is where national leaders are actually fighting this battle for the nation,” Hogan said. “…The health of the national capital region ― Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia ― needs to be an urgent priority focus for our national leaders. It is critical for the nation’s health response, for our national security, for our economy, and for the continuity of our government.”
Maryland Deputy Secretary for Public Health Fran Phillips said there are “clusters of concern under investigation around the state.” That includes the Pleasant View Nursing Home in Mount Airy, where more than five dozen residents have tested positive, two residents have died and 27 staff members are experiencing virus symptoms. Details on other clusters were not immediately available from the Department of Health on Monday.
Phillips urged Marylanders to do everything they can to stop the spread of the virus.
“When this crisis is over ― and one day it will be over ― we will look back at this time in our lives as a particularly extraordinary moment. When we look back, we have to be able to say that we did everything we could to save lives,” Phillips said. “We stayed home, we missed school, we missed our friends, all of our normal routines, so we could fight this virus and save lives. We will say we gave up so much for a while in order to save our loved ones, our friends, neighbors and countless others that we will never know.”
Phillips said no one should think they’re immune to contracting COVID-19, especially because they’re young.
As of Monday, 56% of hospitalized patients in the state were younger than 60 years old.
“This virus and this disease is sneaky. It spreads very easily. And it takes days before we know we have become infected before symptoms appear,” said Phillips, who called the coronavirus the greatest public health challenge of our lifetimes.
“We all need to face this together. We have no vaccine to protect us against this virus. We have no treatments to cure this disease,” she said.
The stay-at-home order is the latest in a series of executive orders by the governor to curtail large social gatherings in the state. It includes stricter guidelines than earlier iterations and Hogan said it would be enforced by criminal penalty.
Violating the stay-at-home order could result in a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
“This is a deadly public health crisis. We are no longer asking or suggesting that Marylanders stay home, we are directing them to do so,” Hogan said.
Maryland residents should not leave their homes unless it is for an essential job or for an essential reason, including to get food or medicine or seek urgent medical attention.
Other reasons for leaving home can include caring for another person or pet, traveling to and from schools to receive meals or instructional materials for distance learning, or engaging in outdoor exercise, according to guidance from the governor’s office. Hogan urged Marylanders to maintain at least six feet distance from one another in any activities outside the home.
Monday’s order also closes all non-essential businesses, which include fitness centers, theaters, shopping malls, entertainment venues, golf courses, tattoo parlors, tanning salons, barber shops and beauty parlors.
Employers make the determination if they’re allowed to remain open and the federal government list of essential services is extensive. Hogan urged all essential businesses to scale back operations and increase telework to the greatest extent possible. Employers who choose to remain open were encouraged by the governor’s office to provide a letter or permission slip to employees to use in the event their travel is questioned by law enforcement.
Curbside-pickup at non-essential businesses is no longer authorized in the state. However, restaurants may continue selling food and drinks through drive-throughs or for carry out.
Travel and quarantine
Marylanders should not travel outside of the state unless absolutely necessary, and all Marylanders who have recently traveled outside the region should self-quarantine for 14 days, Hogan said.
Warnings about travel continue to be posted at all points of entry into the state.
Maryland began testing for COVID-19 Monday at three state-operated motor vehicle emissions inspection stations in Glen Burnie, Waldorf and Bel Air.
In Prince George’s County, state agencies and the University of Maryland opened a testing site at FedEx field.
There is no charge at any of the COVID-19 testing sites in the state, however the testing allotment in Maryland and across the country is still severely limited, Hogan said.
Phillips cautioned that the new testing sites are meant specifically for people who are exhibiting signs of coronavirus with doctor’s referrals or a scheduled appointment.
“The point of these test sites is to pull people away from those health care facilities to spare the emergency rooms and to allow for testing in an alternative site,” Phillips said. “This is not for everyone.”
The proposed expansion of Maryland hospital facilities is under way.
On Saturday, FEMA delivered 250 bed packages to the Baltimore Convention Center field hospital and the Maryland National Guard immediately is setting up that site.
The University of Maryland Medical System is starting construction for the reopening of the 130-bed Laurel Medical Center.
The state has ordered an additional 1,000-bed packages and 100 advanced medical tents to expand the number of beds in existing hospitals and other sites where there are COVID-19 hotspots.
In the D.C. area, Maryland is working with the District government to expand capacity at MedStar facilities and Kaiser Permanente is planning to add 218 beds to Maryland facilities.
Marylanders who have health care skills and want to volunteer are asked to register online: http://mdresponds.health.maryland.gov.
Marylanders who have questions about coronavirus, food or resources can call 2-1-1.
Hogan announced the expansion of a $175 million economic relief package announced last week.
Since last week, the state has received more than 1,500 applications to a $7 million COVID-19 Layoff Aversion fund. Hogan added $2 million to the fund on Monday.
So far, the state has paid $8.8 million to more than 400 small businesses to avert 8,000 layoffs, Hogan said.
The state has also received more than 5,300 applications for a $50 million business relief fund, and more than 11,000 applications for new grant funding.
Businesses seeking assistance can learn about the programs at businessexpress.maryland.gov.
Hogan said Monday that the state’s response to COVID-19 could drain the entire $1.3 billion rainy day fund, and the virus’ spread could be devastating to state revenues.
As head of the National Governors Association, Hogan on Monday, joined by other governors, pressed for at least half of the next stimulus package from the federal government to go to shoring up state budgets.