Maryland will be implementing a stricter face mask requirement and issuing a travel advisory for high-risk areas, Gov. Larry Hogan said Wednesday.
Maryland will be implementing a stricter face mask requirement and issuing a travel advisory for states that are seeing surges in cases of the novel coronavirus, Gov. Larry Hogan said in an update Wednesday.
At 5 p.m. Friday, face masks will be required inside public buildings and at outdoor events if it is not possible to maintain a safe physical distance of 6 feet between individuals.
“This expansion of the masking order is an action that is both fact-based, apolitical and solidly grounded in science,” Hogan said. “And while it can be an inconvenience — especially in the heat — wearing a mask is the single best mitigation strategy that we have to fight the virus.”
The states that have been placed on the travel advisory are Florida, Texas, Georgia, Louisiana, Arizona, Alabama, South Carolina, Nebraska and Idaho. Marylanders are being advised to avoid these states if possible, and to immediately get tested if traveling back to Maryland from one of those areas.
There are 21 states that the federal government has deemed “Red Zones” due to their high case numbers. Many of these states are being advised to close parts of their economies to control the spread of the disease.
Hogan said while Maryland was not on the list, it was “not immune” to seeing a surge in cases if the CDC health guidelines are not followed closely.
Number of confirmed cases: 86,285 (+761)
COVID-19-related and probable deaths: 3,478 (+20)
Currently hospitalized: 571 (+27)
Recoveries: 5,592 (=)
Total number of tests: 1,160,443 (+15,747)
Hogan said though Maryland is not dealing with the sharp spike in case numbers that many other states around the U.S. have seen in recent weeks, the recent rise in positivity rates warranted a pause on further reopening plans.
Maryland reported 761 new cases on Wednesday.
Hogan said the state sees its own rising rates of the virus infections as a “stop sign” for reopening plans and will not be moving forward until the numbers show signs of stabilizing.
Through contact tracing, Hogan said that the state found the number one activity where Marylanders picked up the virus was at family gatherings.
Maryland is currently in Phase Two of its reopening plan, and Hogan said that no plans would be made to move the state into Phase Three “until it is safe, prudent and thoroughly backed by the data and medical science to move forward.”
Also at Wednesday’s news briefing, Maryland’s Deputy Health Secretary Fran Phillips announced that she would be retiring from her position.
Dr. Jinlene Chan, currently the assistant health secretary, will be filling the role of deputy health secretary going forward.
Philips, who returned to the role in 2018 after a brief retirement, has been a major presence in the state’s response to the pandemic, often going before the public and offering information on the virus as it came to light.
Hogan said Phillips agreed to come out of retirement in 2018 to fill the role, but had only planned to stay there for one year. That year turned into two, and Maryland then found itself in a pandemic. Phillips stayed on for an additional five months to help coordinate the state’s response.
“I’ll always be proud of Maryland’s response to this pandemic, and proud of serving on the Maryland Department of Health team of public health champions,” Phillips said.
“We have made great progress, but have quite a way to go,” she said. “So, Marylanders, I’m talking to you: We need to stick together.”
“We need to honor each other by wearing masks, by keeping our distance, by choosing to curtail in-person activities and by making smart decisions. We can put ourselves in control of this virus. What we choose to do today will save lives and keep Maryland strong.”
For her contributions, Hogan presented Phillips with an award recognizing her efforts in the department.
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