BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Gov. Larry Hogan ordered all bars, restaurants, movie theaters and gyms to close dine-in while Maryland tries to slow the spread of coronavirus in the state.
Hogan said the establishments must be closed by 5 p.m. Monday. Some drive-thrus can remain open, and carry-out and food delivery service will still be available. Grocery stores and pharmacies will also remain open. Salons are also not required to close.
Maryland reported 42 positive coronavirus cases Monday and there are more than 100 cases across the DC region.
Hogan referred to a statement by Dr. Anthony Fauci: “if you think you’re overreacting, you’re doing the right thing. Americans should be prepared to hunker down significantly more than we as a country are doing in order to fight this outbreak.”
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Last week, Maryland officials decided to close schools for two weeks and limit visitors to hospitals, nursing homes and senior living facilities. They also enacted an executive order to prohibit all gatherings and events with more than 250 people.
Hogan also closed the cruise terminal at the Port of Baltimore and closed all casinos and racetracks over the weekend. They have also mandated telework for state employees.
“As I have repeatedly stressed, we should expect a number of cases to dramatically and rapidly rise, we have never faced anything like this before,” Hogan said. “This is going to be much harder, take much longer and be much worse than almost anyone is currently understanding. And unfortunately far too many people have continued to ignore those warnings and are crowding into bars and restaurants willingly putting the health and safety of others into grave danger.”
Hogan said leaders are going to have to take drastic actions that “might seem scary” that may be terribly disruptive but are “absolutely necessary to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans.”
“Every single one of us needs to take serious actions to immediately limit day-to-day interactions and activities and we need to do our part to stop this deadly virus from spreading,” Hogan added.
In addition to closings restaurants and bars, Hogan also ordered the following:
- The prohibition of any social, community, religious, recreational sports, gatherings or events of more than 50 people in close proximity in all locations, establishments and venues all across Maryland;
- The activation of 250 Maryland state troopers who are ready for deployment;
- Essential services like grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies, banks and food delivery services need to remain open.
- The Maryland Department of Health is also assessing the possibility to reopen closed hospital facilities across the state and to take other actions necessary to immediately help increase the state’s capacity to care for patients and increase hospital beds by 6,000;
- The activation of the Maryland Medical Reserve Corp — a force of 5,000 medically-trained volunteers who can assist in a public health emergency. More than 700 members were activated for deployment;
- Any medical professional with a valid out-of-state license or an expired Maryland medical license will be able to practice here in Maryland during the state of emergency;
- Activated 400 Air and Army National Guard members over the weekend. By Monday, 1,000 national guardsmen were activated. Another 1,200 guardsmen are on enhanced readiness;
- Prohibited utilities — including electric, gas, water, sewer, phone, cable TV and Internet service provider companies — from shutting off any residential customers or charging late fees;
- Prohibited the eviction of any tenant during the state of emergency; and
- Maryland schools can now provide up to three free meals a day for students across the state during the school closure.
“These emergency orders carry the full force of the law and will be strictly enforced,” Hogan said. “We’re not fooling around anymore.”
With respect to shops, the governor said officials have been discussing whether or not to close them, but the key is they don’t want 50 or more people congregating in small places.
As for malls, the governor’s spokesman Mike Ricci tweeted:
“Getting questions about how Governor Hogan’s order affects malls. Obviously, restaurants and food courts will shut down. That’ll eliminate quite a bit of foot traffic. But it is not our intent to close all retail at this time,” Ricci said.
MALLS. Getting questions about how Governor Hogan’s order affects malls. Obviously, restaurants and food courts will shut down. That’ll eliminate quite a bit of foot traffic. But it is not our intent to close all retail at this time.
— Mike Ricci (@riccimike) March 16, 2020
“We don’t want to completely shut down commerce and we want people to get the things that they need, so we’ll be addressing those as we go along,” Hogan said.
There are federal and state bills being built to address the financial hardships of the unemployed and businesses during the pandemic.
Hogan said it’s “impossible to know how long this will take” but that schools could be closed longer than two weeks.
“The measures may seem extreme, but we cannot wait … this could save the lives of thousands of Marylanders,” he said.
The governor held the press conference outside to practice social distancing and limited the amount of media at the event.
The Green Turtle and Koopers Tavern spoke to WJZ on Monday. They’re both adjusting to the coronavirus concerns just like everyone else.
Whether it’s because of self quarantining or interest elsewhere, downtown Fells Point is quieter than usual on a sunny Monday.
The Square has its usual skateboarders but the restaurants and bars are missing those patrons they rely on.
“Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day. There are financial considerations, but with the mandate from the governor, it’s 5 p.m,” said Bill Packo, the owner of Green Turtle on S. Broadway.
Most places are down to just carry-out or are relying on food deliveries. Koopers Tavern is getting creative with their Chowhound Food Truck out front.
Sam Hofherr of Koopers is adjusting too.
“We’re rolling with the punches as they are thrown at us,” she said. “We’re prepared to do that every day from 11 am to 8:30 pm as long as we can until the next thing changes for us.”
Koopers Tavern stressed how they wanted to have tables set up outdoors so their guests wouldn’t have to be confined to the same indoor space.
Maryland Officials banned all public events with more than 250 people. This means these usually busy restaurants will have workers who lose out on tips.
“The tipped staff are the ones who are most affected because since we’re closing at 5, there’s no reason to have any tipped staff here. They’re going to be out of work for what it looks like 2 weeks,” Packo said.
WJZ also caught up with Melissa and Jon Doering, the owners of Penny Black in Fells Point. The restaurant closed its doors at 5 p.m. Monday as well.
Today I was… I thought this was coming but I was really surprised it was so soon,” Melissa Doering said. “I thought I would have a few days to prepare and transition from being open to carry out.”
As for what’s next for Penny Black, she said it depends what food they get delivered.
With Maryland in a State of Emergency, everybody is still waiting on edge to hear what the next move will be in order to be back to their regular schedule, whenever that will be.
The state has set up a website to help small businesses, including those struggling with closures.