ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (WJZ) — More coronavirus-related restrictions will be lifted for some Howard County businesses Friday morning.

County Executive Calvin Ball announced Tuesday that retail stores, barbershops and hair salons will be able to operate at 50% capacity starting May 29 at 7 a.m. with some specific industry-related guidelines.

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Hair services must still be by appointment only.

 

Religious institutions and gatherings will also be able to hold outdoor services with up to 250 people. However, indoor gatherings will still be limited to 10 people.

Members of the congregation must wear masks but religious leaders can speak without one as long as they are 12 feet away from others. Singing is not encouraged at this time.

 

CORONAVIRUS RESOURCES: 

“On May 13, when Gov. Larry Hogan announced that many decisions regarding reopening would be delegated to local jurisdictions, I made the difficult decision to keep certain restrictions in Howard County. At the time, our data showed we weren’t ready to go as far as the governor’s order,” Ball said.

The county executive released the county’s HoCo RISE plan to reopen and said since announcing the plan, metrics have been showing promising trends.

“We’ve made progress on the building blocks for reopening, including a lower ICU and ventilator utilization rate, a lower daily average of new cases, and an increase in our contact tracing operation,” Ball said.

After spiking to 78.8%, the county’s ICU utilization rate has fallen or stayed the same, the county executive reported. As of May 23, the ICU rate was at its lowest level since April 1, he added. 

“Today I will sign an executive order and put out specific guidance for each of these industries to maintain a safe environment for employees, customers and congregations, as they reopen in coordination with our health department,” he said. “We continue to work with business owners and hair salons, barbershops, retail and restaurants, as well as fitness centers, and other sectors to get feedback on possible reopening.”

Beginning at 7:00 a.m. on Friday, May 29th, the following is allowed in Howard County.

  • Retailers in Howard County may open at 50% of maximum occupancy.
    • Retailers are still encouraged to use curbside pick-up whenever possible.
  • Barbers and hair salons may open at 50% of maximum occupancy including staff.
    • Businesses must continue to operate by appointment only.
    • Staff and clients must wear masks.
  • Religious institutions may hold outdoor services of up to 250 people, as long as all participants can maintain appropriate physical distancing of 6 feet.
    • Indoor services are still limited to a maximum of 10 people.

“We do have evidence that supports gradual reopening in our community in a safer manner,” said Dr. Maura Rossman, county health officer. “And as the county executive mentioned as we gradually reopen and resume our new normal activities, we must continue to practice social distancing: wearing facial coverings, washing our hands and the other methods we have learned in these past 10 weeks or more, and how to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our colleagues.”

As to why they are still limiting indoor crowds at houses of worship, the county executive said they are following guidelines from the CDC and the White House on that.

“Many of the other retail establishments, people will come, they will continue moving around, and then they’ll make their purchase,” Ball said. “Church gatherings, oftentimes, we’ll have the large gatherings for several, maybe 10 hours in a closed environment, and frankly what we’ve seen is a lot of folks who might necessarily go to a lot of the church gatherings might still be in our vulnerable population.

“Today’s announcement allows one thousand small businesses that employ 18,000 workers to open their doors,” noted Larry Twele of the Howard County Economic Development Authority.

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For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department’s website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ’s coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.