ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — Gov. Larry Hogan is urging Marylanders not to travel for Christmas and other holidays this year.

This comes as the number of coronavirus deaths continue to increase across the state. Maryland surpassed 5,000 coronavirus-related deaths total earlier this week.

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“This holiday season could present perhaps our toughest challenge yet,” Hogan said during a press conference Thursday. “It is during this time of year that so many of us typically make plans to travel to visit family and loved ones.”

Yet, community transmission continues to have an impact.

“And we all look forward to hosting or attending family gatherings and holiday parties,” he continued. “Unfortunately, these are the very things that contact tracing consistently shows are the most dangerous things we can do.”

There have been a total of 243,984 coronavirus cases since the pandemic began. Forty-nine more Marylanders have died Thursday from the virus with a total of 5,152 deaths reported.

Hospitalizations went down by 60 and are now at 1,702. The number of ICU patients are slightly down again to 394 and there are 1,308 in acute care.

The statewide positivity rate went up slightly and is now at 7.73%. It’s the 8th lowest in the country, Hogan said.

“After doing so well for so long, we simply cannot afford to let our guard down over the holidays during this very critical time,” Hogan said. “So our message today is simple — you are safer at home for the holidays this year.”

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“Making difficult sacrifices during these next few weeks will absolutely help to keep your family, loved ones and your fellow Marylanders safe, “he added. “It will help our hospitals keep up with the demand and it will save a lot.”

“We do want families to celebrate and enjoy the holidays in ways that keep them safe,” Hogan said, urging Marylanders to stay home for the holidays.

“Today, I am issuing an emergency order, which requires limiting travel to essential purposes only,” Hogan said. “Marylanders who do travel outside of Maryland or individuals who do travel to our state will be required to obtain a negative COVID-19 test result or to self quarantine for 10 days. With testing so widely available to anyone throughout Maryland this is easier than ever before.”

This however doesn’t include the states that border Maryland like Pennsylvania, Delaware and Virginia as well as the District of Columbia.

“[This] doesn’t impact people that are driving to and from the states in the region,” Hogan said. “We’re talking about flying out of state or traveling to places that are outside of our region.”

He said thousands of Marylanders leave the state daily to work in nearby states.

The Maryland Department of Health also issued a public health advisory, which lowers the gathering limit from 25 to 10. The health department is also advising Marylanders against all non-essential activities and holiday gatherings with people outside of your immediate household.

Several hospitals have administered the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine to frontline workers.  Hogan said earlier this week that nursing home workers and residents would begin to be vaccinated next week.

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.

CBS Baltimore Staff