On September 1, Governor Larry Hogan announced that Maryland will enter stage three of the state’s Roadmap to Recovery Plan beginning on Friday at 5 p.m. Local leaders, however, are left to determine whether to move forward with lifting restrictions.
All businesses and manufacturing services in Maryland will be allowed to reopen. Religious facilities, retail businesses and malls can reopen at 75 percent capacity. Indoor recreation areas, restaurants and theaters can reopen but at a 50 percent capacity or a maximum of 100 people.
Despite Hogan’s announcement, Baltimore City Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young announced a day later that the city will remain in the first stage of the state’s reopening plan.
“While some parts of the state may feel ready to move into phase three, that is not the case for Baltimore City. The data for Baltimore looks promising and we anticipate moving to phase two next week,” Young said at a press conference.
Under stage two, theaters will be able to reopen at 25 percent capacity, and restaurants can expand indoor dining to 50 percent capacity.
Baltimore City previously entered stage two of reopening in mid-June but quickly shuttered all indoor dining due to a spike in coronavirus (COVID-19) cases. Indoor dining was permitted to resume at 25 percent capacity in early August.
Hogan criticized Young’s decision to draw out Baltimore City’s reopening.
“I think it’s absolutely absurd that there are thousands of people gathering in the streets and yet a small business in Baltimore can’t open their doors,” Hogan said. “And I think Jack Young should let those small retail shops open – they should have been open a long time ago.”
Sophomore Annie Yang, who moved back to Baltimore for the fall semester, shared that she does not think that Maryland is ready to move into Phase Three. Although she acknowledged that the move was inevitable since businesses would have to reopen eventually, she expressed concern for the spike in cases last month and the University’s decision to go fully remote.
“I don't think the American government has made good choices tackling the pandemic, so people in general haven't been taking it as seriously as they should have been,” Yang wrote in an email to The News-Letter.
Junior Sensei Silab, a Baltimore resident, noted in an email to The News-Letter that though COVID-19 cases are rising daily, many people have become more relaxed about wearing masks and avoiding large gatherings. She emphasized her support for Young’s decision.
“I think in doing so we’re also being mindful of underserved communities who would be more susceptible to the virus at this time. Again, COVID isn’t gone and we still need to do our very best to contain the virus. Staying in Phase 2 is one of the many ways to maximize these efforts,“ she wrote.
Maryland resident sophomore Julie Liu voiced concerns that Hogan’s decision could harm many Maryland residents.
“The U.S. just passed the 6 million cases toll a few days ago. Pushing the state to open, Maryland people are exposed to increased risk than before. This is even more critical for the downtown area where a high density of low income households reside,” Liu wrote.
To combat Maryland’s case numbers, Hogan announced that the state has expanded its COVID-19 laboratory testing to accommodate for contact tracing of up to 1,000 cases each day. Maryland will also be one of the leading states to use an app called Exposures Notifications Express, designed to notify individuals if they have been exposed to COVID-19.
Hogan still urged all residents of Maryland to maintain social distancing protocols and avoid large gatherings and crowded areas, especially with Labor Day weekend approaching.
“While we want everybody to enjoy the holiday weekend, we tend to feel safe around our family and friends and, in fact, that’s when we let our guard down, and we don’t do the things that we do when we’re out in stores and out in places where we’re actually being careful and following all the good advice,” Hogan said during a press briefing.
Even though Maryland is opening up, Silab shared that she is still planning to stay at home to remain cautious around the pandemic.
“I feel that because the restrictions are much more relaxed, there might be a tendency for people to move away from preventive actions like wearing a mask,” Silab wrote. “It is always better to be safe than sorry, so staying in Phase 2 and not moving on to Phase 3 is totally understandable.”