Maryland Governor Larry Hogan issued an order this morning directing all Maryland residents to stay in their residences beginning at 8 p.m. tonight. This order also closed all non-essential businesses — including senior centers, restaurants and bars, fitness centers, theaters and malls — to the public.
Under the order, members of the public are allowed to leave their residences to conduct certain essential activities. These include purchasing necessary household supplies, seeking medical attention or advice, providing necessary care for another, receiving a meal or instructional material from an educational institution, engaging in outdoor exercise and engaging in public business.
The order specifies that any violation of its directives constitutes a misdemeanor offense and carries a maximum penalty of a $5,000 fine and one year in prison.
Governmental bodies, media outlets and non-profit organizations serving low-income Marylanders are specifically excluded from the requirement of the order that all non-essential businesses close. People whose residences are not safe and those who are homeless are similarly excluded from the requirement to stay home.
In an email to The News-Letter, University Assistant Vice President for External Relations Karen Lancaster reported that there are just under 200 undergraduates that remain in on-campus housing across the Homewood and Mount Vernon campuses who will be subject this order. The number of students living in off-campus housing who will be subject to this order is unknown.
Junior Mikhael Hammer-Bleich resides in Silver Springs, Md., a Beltway suburb in Montgomery County. He explained his understanding of this new order in an interview with The News-Letter.
“First of all, if someone is congregating, police are able to come and do something about it. And second of all, it uses the bully pulpit of the governorship to tell people this is a big deal,” he said.
Junior Diego Tanton urged people to remember that this order should in fact not change much about their daily routines. He asked people to bear in mind that the order just codifies what public health officials have been recommending since the pandemic began.
“We’re still allowed to leave home for essential activities or to get a breath of fresh air or exercise. So in this sense not much has changed for those who have already been practicing good social distancing,” he said.
Freshman Breanna Soldatelli is a resident of Hebron, Md., a town in the southeastern county of Wicomico. She expressed that while she does not expect the order to affect things too much in her area, she is glad Hogan issued it.
“Where I live, it’s not that big of a problem because I’m in a very rural area. But I know this will be very hard on the general public of Maryland,” she said. “He’s handling the best that he can. He has found a pretty good balance. I think this shelter in place order is a step in the right direction.”
Junior Sumi Kim, who is currently staying in Baltimore, reported that she felt Hogan should have given the order for the public to stay at home earlier.
“I think it's definitely long overdue. Even though I know Maryland does not have as bad of a case as in other states, I just feel like precautions should have been taken earlier,” she said.
On March 19, Hogan had issued an order prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people. Maryland State Police reported in a Twitter post that in the 10 days after issuing the order, they performed more than 5,200 business and crowd compliance checks. One Charles County man caught up in those checks was eventually charged in district court with two counts of violating the order.
Hammer-Bleich concurred with Kim regarding Hogan’s order.
“I'm upset that it has taken him this long to do so. The Washington, D.C. area is not nearly as bad as some of the other areas in the country. But at the same time, maybe it’s even more important that we do a shelter-in-place order. So that we don't have the capacity to spread it,” he said.
As of the morning of March 30, public health officials in D.C., Maryland and Virginia reported knowing of at least 2,834 confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the region. According to the New York Times, there were 66,526 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New York State at that same time.
In an email to The News-Letter, freshman Amara Gammon worried about the effects of the order on her family’s ability to earn income.
Gammon is a resident of Waldorf, Md., a community in Charles County about 23 miles south-southeast of D.C.
“I’m not sure if their jobs are the same ‘essential’ that Governor Hogan considers essential, but they’re required to support our livelihood. I know others’ parents have already shifted to remote work, but that just isn’t possible for my parents,” she wrote. “I’m a little scared that this new order would put my parents out of work. Despite that, it’s for the greater good, plus it’s temporary.”
In statements made on Twitter, both Baltimore Mayor Bernard “Jack” Young and City Council President Brandon Scott urged Baltimore residents to follow Hogan’s order.
In an email to the Hopkins community today, Provost Sunil Kumar, Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration Daniel Ennis and Vice President for Human Resources Heidi Conway informed essential Hopkins workers that they would be provided with documentation of their status shortly and asked all non-essential Hopkins affiliates to follow Hogan’s order and stay home.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam also announced a similar order this morning and has since stated that he is coordinating his state’s pandemic-response efforts with Hogan’s.
Since Hogan proclaimed a catastrophic health emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic on March 5, the governor has issued a series of orders related to Maryland’s handling of the crisis.
Hogan ordered the activation of the Maryland National Guard on March 12. This allowed the Guard to begin operating within Maryland to support state and local officials’ efforts to manage the pandemic.
On March 16, Hogan ordered the Maryland Health Secretary to relax the state’s regulation of healthcare practitioners. He directed the Secretary to recognize out-of-state medical licenses, allow inactive practitioners to return to work and allow healthcare workers to work outside the area of their specific license.
That same day, Hogan suspended eviction proceedings against tenants who can objectively demonstrate in court that they have suffered a substantial loss of income related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On March 23, Hogan prohibited retailers from increasing by more than 10 percent the amount of profit that they make in selling or renting certain goods. These goods include food, water, medicine, cleaning products, energy sources, storage space, internet and child care.
Rudy Malcom and Chris Park contributed reporting to this article.