ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan implored local leaders to enforce public health requirements, like physical distancing and masks, in bars and restaurants after the state has linked an increasing number of COVID-19 cases to non-compliance.
“The vast majority of bars and restaurants in our state are in compliance, but some are flagrantly violating the law and endangering public health,” said Gov. Hogan.
“You have the responsibility to enforce these laws. Violators should be warned, fined, have actions taken regarding their licenses, or closed if necessary,” Hogan continued. “Local health departments, local liquor boards and inspectors, and local law enforcement agencies must work together to ensure public health is protected.”
The positivity rate among younger Marylanders continues to rise. The rate is 84% higher for Marylanders under the age of 35 than for those 35 and older.
Hogan said penalities should include fines, actions against licenses and closures.
A number of bars the Canton neighborhood of Baltimore, as well as several in Ocean City, had to close after coronavirus cases were reported among staff. There were no officials reports of those cases being passed from staff to customers.
In recent weeks, at least 12 other states have moved to re-close bars and restaurants statewide or in targeted localities following COVID-19 spikes and outbreaks.
Under Executive Order 20-06-10-01, which was issued on June 10, and accompanying directives from the Maryland Department of Health:
- Bars and restaurants are open for seated service only with physical distancing and capacity restrictions.
- Customers must be seated at least six feet apart from other guests. Standing and congregating in bar areas is strictly prohibited.
- All staff must wear a face covering while working and interacting with customers.
- For facilities with booths, every other booth must be closed.
- No more than six people may sit at a table.
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“Our continued economic health and recovery depend on the active and aggressive local compliance and enforcement of these critical public health measures,” Hogan said. “We cannot allow a small segment of willful violators to squander the collective efforts of the overwhelming majority of Maryland citizens and businesses.”
Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski said they have a social distancing task force who is making sure the rules are enforced.
“To date, we have not had to take any enforcement action, but clearly in Baltimore County we are prepared to, so if restaurants or businesses don’t take that, we are prepared to do what we have to do to keep our people safe,” he said.
The state continues working to further increase the convenience and accessibility of COVID-19 resources and testing. Learn more about COVID-19 in Maryland, or make a plan to get tested at one of more than 220 testing sites, by visiting coronavirus.maryland.gov.