Could Maryland could begin reopening early next month?
“It’s possible, that’s what I’m hoping,” Governor Larry Hogan said Friday.
A few consecutive days of stabilizing admissions to hospitals and intensive care units have given him reason for optimism, Hogan said.
At a press conference in which he announced the release of his “roadmap to recovery” for Maryland, Hogan stressed that the improving numbers need to be sustained for two weeks before he eases any restrictions on public life.
“We are starting to see some plateauing,” he said.
The plan calls for reopening Maryland’s economy in three stages, but only following greatly increased testing, contact tracing, hospital surge capacity and protective equipment.
Because of more testing in Maryland, Hogan said, the number of confirmed cases won’t factor into his team’s decisions. The additional testing may make the virus look like it is spreading, when in fact the case count is just catching up to the actual number of cases.
Despite Hogan’s bullish stance, his experts were cautious.
“We all want the state to reopen as quickly as it can, but it’s clear that if we open the state today, we would risk a fast acceleration,” said Tom Inglesby, of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, who is one of Hogan’s advisers during the pandemic.
Because of the variability of the data day-to-day – Hogan said Sundays see lower numbers because fewer people are working – he won’t delay reopening if a few days experience a bump in hospitalizations during a generally downward trend.
“One little day of deviation, I’m not restarting the clock,” he said.
During the first stage, Hogan said, he would lift the stay-at-home order. Some businesses would be allowed to open and some outdoor activities would resume, while maintaining physical distancing.
Stage 2 would see some bars and restaurants open “with significant safety restrictions,” Hogan said. More than 10 people would be allowed to gather, more indoor gatherings would be allowed, many nonessential workers would return to work and public transit would increase frequency.
In stage 3, Hogan said he would allow larger gatherings and events and remove some of the most restrictive measures, including those on hospitals. Rules regarding nursing homes, he said, would go last.
Hogan’s plan comes a day after he released a similar report, through the National Governors Association, offering guidance to other governors.