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by Judith Hruz
Restrictions have been loosened to a small degree, but the governor remains firm that he will not move so swiftly to force a deadlier resurgence of the coronavirus.
Gov. Larry Hogan opened state parks and facilities for golfing, tennis, boating, fishing and camping, as well as state beaches, as of May 7, because the number of COVID-19 patients needing hospitalizations or intensive care beds was beginning to plateau.
Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich and County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles on May 9 said they are not ready to reopen the county until the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations is on a sustained decline.
Citing the governor’s recent order to reopen a limited number of outdoor activities, Elrich said Montgomery County officials will be deliberate and thoughtful in planning when to loosen restrictions and begin to reopen businesses and services.
“We are in a densely populated metropolitan area, and we share borders with other jurisdictions. It is important that whatever any one of us does, we all do,” Elrich said. “Until we are all ready to open, it is not prudent for any one of us to open.”
At the same time, state superintendent of schools Dr. Karen Salmon announced that all school buildings across Maryland would remain closed for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year.
She said it was an appropriate decision in order to protect the health of students, staff, administrators and everyone in the school community.
Salmon said online and distance learning will continue.
At a press conference May 6, the governor said he and health officials had been hoping the numbers would begin to plateau in early May, and “fortunately, we are beginning to see those encouraging numbers.”
If the numbers continued the downward trend into this week, Hogan said, he would be ready to lift the stay-at-home order.
But revoking the stay-at-home order and allowing the first step of the “Maryland Strong: Roadmap to Recovery” plan to be put into play does not mean restrictions on social distancing and other precautions will be revoked, as well.
“The virus is still with us,” said Dr. David Marcozzi of the University of Maryland School of Medicine and a member of the governor’s Coronavirus Response Team.
Therefore, he said, everyone must maintain physical distance and practice hand-washing hygiene, congregate only in small groups, wear face coverings if possible and protect those at high risk.
Earlier in the day, Elrich and Gayles also cautioned about being reckless when restrictions become less stringent.
Elrich said he understands the growing sense of quarantine fatigue, but that it is important to be patient and make changes with caution.
He said it is not worth loosening restrictions “if we bring back the virus,”
Taking care of senior care residents, staff
On April 29, Hogan said the state is no longer playing defense against the coronavirus, but “attacking from every angle with everything we’ve got.”
The action includes an executive order mandating that all patients and staff at all nursing homes and long-term-care facilities in the state be tested.
The same day, the state began reporting the numbers of cases and deaths – residents and staff — at all nursing homes and long-term-care facilities in the state, breaking it down by individual facility.
Across the state at press time, 4,323 residents and 1,895 staff members tested positive for COVID-19. Seven hundred ninety-two residents and 11 staff members died. Those deaths add up to more than 50 percent of the deaths in Maryland.
Montgomery County had the highest number of confirmed cases at press time – 1,000 residents, with 215 deaths, and 512 staff members, with two deaths.
Baltimore County followed with 791 resident cases and 121 deaths and 299 staff cases and two deaths.
Gayles said the county also has worked “very closely” with nursing homes and long-term-care facilities since the beginning of the pandemic, providing guidance and up-to-date guidelines.
Cases in the community
At press time, the state was reporting 30,485 total confirmed cases in Maryland and 1,453 confirmed deaths.
In Montgomery County, there were 6,316 cases and 324 deaths.
When the number of deaths went above 300 earlier in the week, Elrich called it a “grim milestone.”
Two months ago, the state had reported the first three confirmed cases in Maryland, and all three were Montgomery County residents.
For more on COVID-19, visit:
State of Maryland, www.health.maryland.gov/coronavirus or www.govenor.maryland.gov/receovery
Montgomery County, https://montgomerycountymd.gov/hhs/rightnav/coronavirus.html or call 311
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov
National Institutes of Health, www.nih.gov
World Health Organization, www.WHO.int
Small Business Administration, www.sba.gov
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