ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — Gov. Larry Hogan Monday issued an executive order closing all non-essential businesses as of 5 p.m. Monday but didn’t go as far as issuing a “stay-at-home” order or “lockdown” to combat the spread of coronavirus.
Hogan took the action after saying Marylanders weren’t heeding warnings about COVID-19 and weren’t practicing good social distancing.
“Let me be clear, we are not issuing or ordering a ‘shelter in place’ directive or forcing people to stay home,” the governor said Monday. However, we are telling all Marylanders to follow all the directives we’ve already issued to follow state law against crowds of more than 10 people. And we are telling you unless you have an essential reason to leave your house, then you should stay in your homes.”
1a. This is NOT a shelter-in-place order. However, we are URGING Marylanders to STAY HOME as much as possible. If you don't need to leave your neighborhood, you should not leave your neighborhood.
— Mike Ricci (@riccimike) March 23, 2020
“Furthermore, aggressive actions will be taken by state and local authorities to disperse these gatherings,” Hogan said, noting law enforcement will break up large gatherings they see and participants could be arrested or fined.
Penalties for breaking the order include up to a year in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Hogan also announced a number of ways the state is trying to help small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re still pushing very hard for major economic stimulus,” he said.
Maryland small businesses can apply for up to $50,000 in funding so they don’t have to lay off employees, Hogan announced.
The Maryland Department of Health is reporting at least 288 coronavirus cases across the state as of Monday morning. It was 244 Sunday.
Out of Maryland’s 24 counties, 21 counties have reported positive COVID-19 cases. The only counties that haven’t reported cases are Allegany, Dorchester and Kent counties.
On Saturday, officials announced the third coronavirus related death in the state. The victim was a resident of Montgomery County in her 40s who suffered from an underlying medical condition, according to the health department.
- LIST: Here Are The Symptoms Of Coronavirus And When To Seek Help
- Coronavirus In Maryland: What We Know
- Coronavirus-Related Closings
- Latest coronavirus stories from WJZ
“My administration is marshaling every tool in public health to combat and slow the spread of this pandemic,” Hogan said.
As part of the state’s hospital surge plan, Gov. Hogan ordered the Baltimore Convention Center and Hilton Hotel to become “alternative care sites”, a plan that works as a partnership between the University of Maryland Medical System and Johns Hopkins.
The governor also has asked FEMA to deliver 250 beds and 50 bed packages to support the initiative, and UMMS has also agreed to reopen Laurel Hospital, making another 135 beds available in short order.
All moves are a part of his plans to boost the health care system in the state and keep up with the growing number of cases. The governor announced Monday that in addition to more hospital beds and field hospitals in repurposed buildings, drive-thru testing sites will be made available as soon as they are ready.
He has directed the Maryland National Guard and the Maryland Department of Health to collaborate with Prince George’s County and the University of Maryland Medical System on a pilot drive-thru location at FedEx Field in Landover.
“We also have five vehicle emission inspection centers ready to immediately open as drive-through screening and testing centers as soon as the necessary testing kits, PPEs and lab capability becomes available.” He said.
Health care providers are also directed to cease all elective procedures and prioritize tests for hospitalized and chronic care patients, symptomatic first responders and symptomatic nursing home patients.