ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — Masks outdoors are no longer required in Maryland in most settings, Gov. Larry Hogan announced Wednesday.
In an update, he said more than 4.5 million vaccines have been administered in the state. Eighty-five percent of Marylanders age 65 and older are vaccinated.READ MORE: Starting May 1, Marylanders Can Book Their Own COVID-19 Vaccine Appointments
The governor also claims Maryland has the lowest transmission rate in the country. With this decline in metrics and high vaccination pace, Gov. Hogan announced effective immediately, the outdoor mask mandate is lifted.
Face coverings are still required indoors and indoor dining restrictions will remain.
He added that if you are not yet vaccinated, public health experts still “strongly recommend” that you immediately get vaccinated, and continue to be cautious in the meantime- including wearing your masks.
He said masks are still required for Marylanders at all large ticketed venues, as well as indoors at all, public and private businesses across the state and when using public transportation.
The outdoor dining restrictions will also lift starting Saturday, May 1. Standing service can resume outdoors at bars and restaurants, and all capacity and distancing restrictions will be lifted.
Seated service and physical distancing requirements will remain in place indoors at bars and restaurants until more people are vaccinated, Gov. Hogan said.
“We expect to be able to take additional actions in the weeks ahead and to return to a sense of normalcy…the fastest way to put this pandemic behind us once and for all is for every single eligible Marylander to get vaccinated as soon as possible.” he added.
Local jurisdictions, as they have throughout the pandemic, will have final say on their mask mandates. Harford and Baltimore counties have announced they’re lifting restrictions, but other counties say they’re not there yet.
Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott and Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa issued a joint statement Wednesday night:
“The Mayor and Baltimore City Health Department are reviewing the most recent State mask order and want to ensure that Baltimore’s local mask mandate is in alignment with CDC guidance. We would like to reiterate that the CDC’s guidance for not wearing a mask when outdoors under certain conditions specifically refers to fully vaccinated individuals, or those interacting with fully vaccinated individuals. Baltimore City will make an announcement regarding new mask guidance in the days to come.
Currently only one out of four Baltimore residents are fully vaccinated. This means you can safely assume three out of four people you encounter in public are not yet fully vaccinated. While there is a lower risk of disease transmission outdoors, that is not the same as no-risk of disease transmission. Creating policy that distinguishes between people who are vaccinated and non-vaccinated will inform our review of the current mask mandate.
We continue to encourage Baltimore residents to exercise caution and remain vigilant by wearing masks in situations where physical distancing is not possible. We also encourage all Baltimore City residents aged 16 and up to get vaccinated as quickly as possible, by either signing up at covax.baltimorecity.gov or calling our Call Center at 443-984-8650 to register for an appointment.”
Several area residents said they were happy to hear the news.
“I think it’s a step towards normalcy,” said Dan Harrison of Baltimore.
Brian Eric of Baltimore agreed: “Any way we can get back to normalcy now is a plus for everybody.”
Business owners and managers also expressed relief.
“It’s a sigh of relief. I actually feel relieved, but we have to take our own precautions,” said Daniel Cruz, manager of Black Eyed Suzies.
As such, the Bel Air restaurant isn’t making any changes yet, staying at 50 percent capacity with socially distant tables. Harford County has one of the highest positivity rates in the state, at just over 5 percent.
“I appreciate moving forward, the idea that it is. But we all have to self-govern a little bit,” Cruz said.
Howard County Executive Calvin Ball says he’s reviewing Hogan’s executive order before making any decisions.
Similarly in Baltimore city, Max’s Taphouse is one restaurant waiting to hear a final decision from the mayor. City officials say just one in four people are vaccinated.
“I think we’re cautiously optimistic,” said Brina Furman of Max’s Taphouse. “We’ve got most of our staff vaccinated so we just feel really good like we’re moving in the right direction.”