Hogan Pushes Leaders to Step Up Enforcement of Public Health Rules for Bars, Restaurants

    Clearly concerned about trends showing COVID-19 cases inching up among younger Marylanders — and mindful of other states with COVID-19 outbreaks that have had to order bars and restaurants to shut down again — Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) on Tuesday called on local authorities to step up enforcement of public health requirements in eating and drinking establishments.

    In a letter addressed to “County Leaders,” Hogan noted that the positivity rate for COVID-19 among Marylanders under 35 is now 84% higher than it is for Marylanders 35 and over.

    “An increasing number of COVID-19 cases have been connected to non-compliance of public health requirements, particularly in bars and restaurants,” Hogan wrote. “Businesses that fail to comply with the state’s orders put their customers and employees at grave risk, and jeopardize our safe, effective and gradual recovery.”

    Hogan reiterated the state’s month-old rules on how bars and restaurants can serve customers:

    • Bars and restaurants are open for seated service only with physical distancing and capacity restrictions. Customers must be seated at least six feet apart from other guests. Standing and congregating in bar areas is strictly prohibited.
    • All staff must wear a face covering while working and interacting with customers.
    • For facilities with booths, every other booth must be closed.
    • No more than six people may sit at a table.

    “Our continued economic health and recovery depend on the active and aggressive local compliance and enforcement of these critical public health measures,” the governor wrote. “We cannot allow a small segment of willful violators to squander the collective efforts of the overwhelming majority of Maryland citizens and businesses.”

    Hogan’s appeal comes several weeks after he stopped participating in a regular weekly chat with executives of the county’s largest jurisdictions, which had begun at the pandemic’s outset — a fact that Baltimore County Executive John A. Olszewski Jr. (D) pointed out Tuesday.

    “Baltimore County continues to do whatever it takes to protect the health and safety of our residents from the dangers of this deadly disease,” he said. “This requires leaders at all levels to communicate directly. Rather than raising issues through a press release, I encourage Governor Hogan to personally re-join the ongoing conversations with local leaders so we can work hand-in-hand to defeat our common enemy.”

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    Josh Kurtz
    Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.