Maryland will join Texas, Mississippi, Connecticut, and other states that have recently announced a rollback of coronavirus restrictions as vaccine distribution accelerates nationwide.
Ahead of the one-year anniversary of COVID-19 being declared a global pandemic, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) announced Tuesday that he will loosen some restrictions on business capacity and out-of-state travel. Unlike other Republican governors, however, Hogan will keep Maryland's mask mandate in full force and effect.
"Over the last few weeks, as we marked one year of grappling with this deadly virus, many of us have been recalling our 'lasts' — the last time we ate inside a restaurant, the last time we celebrated a big occasion with family and friends, the last time we went to a ballgame, the last time we took a family vacation. In the weeks and months ahead, with continued vigilance, together we will instead begin to mark new 'firsts.' Everything won't look exactly the same just yet, and we do need to continue to do the things that keep us safe, but there can be no doubt that we are closer to that light at the end of the tunnel and a return to some sense of normalcy in our lives," the governor said in a statement.
Effective Friday, March 12, at 5:00 p.m., Maryland will lift capacity requirements on indoor and outdoor dining, though restaurants and bars are still required to enforce limited and socially distanced seating and service. Retail businesses, churches, gyms, personal services, and recreational businesses (casinos, bingo halls, bowling alleys, skating rinks, etc.) will have limits on their capacity lifted.
Large venues for weddings, concerts, sports, movie theaters, or other gatherings of many people will have their capacity expanded to 50%. People who attend these venues are still required to socially distance and wear masks.
Travel restrictions and quarantine requirements for those visiting Maryland from out of state will also be lifted.
"With the pace of vaccinations rapidly rising and our health metrics steadily improving, the lifting of these restrictions is a prudent, positive step in the right direction and an important part of our economic recovery," Hogan said. "These steps are made possible because of Marylanders wearing masks, washing their hands, keeping their distance and following the public health advice."
The governor announced the loosening of coronavirus restrictions at a press conference updating Maryland residents on COVID-19 in the state. Hogan said Maryland's case rate per 100,000 has dropped by more than 76% to 12.9, out-performing 32 other states. Case positivity in Maryland has fallen to 3.4%, better than 39 other states.
Hospitalizations for COVID-19 are also on the decline, falling to 792 people statewide. More than 1.6 million vaccines have been distributed in Maryland.
"All of our vaccine progress along with all of our sustained positive improvements ... have enabled us to continue to follow the science and to be able today to take significant steps to further ease more of the mitigation measures currently in place," Hogan said.