Maryland to lift restrictions on indoor restaurants, gyms, casinos

Maryland to lift restrictions on indoor restaurants, gyms, casinos
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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on Wednesday lifted a host of COVID-19 restrictions in the biggest wave of reopenings to date in the state.

Hogan said casinos, day cares, gyms, amusement parks, malls and indoor dining will all be able to resume with restrictions over the next 10 days. 

Hogan also urged local schools to schedule outdoor graduation ceremonies with capacity and distancing restrictions in place.  

Beginning at 5 p.m. Friday, restrictions will be lifted on indoor dining and outdoor amusement activities, including miniature golf. Indoor dining will initially be limited to 50 percent capacity, and table distancing will be enforced.

Gyms and other indoor fitness studios will be allowed to reopen next Friday, June 19, after undergoing a deep cleaning, Hogan said. Casinos, malls and arcades will also open that day.

Hogan reiterated that being outside is safer than being inside. High school sports teams can hold outdoor practices, and outdoor pools will be able to increase their capacity from 25 to 50 percent.

Hogan said the reopening is possible in part because of a massive increase in the state's testing capacity. Currently, about 6.4 percent of the population has been tested, including every nursing home resident and staff member. 

Aside from testing, Maryland also saw a substantial decrease in the number of patients hospitalized.  Hospitalizations dropped to 960, the lowest level in 61 days, and ICU beds are at an eight-week low, Hogan said.

“Because of the early and aggressive actions taken, we have not only flattened the curve, we have actually crushed the curve in Maryland. Every one of the important metrics in our state has continued to drop across the board in every single jurisdiction," Hogan said.

Public health officials have warned that the virus is not going away and that the country is still in the height of the pandemic. Still, every state has loosened restrictions, including some that have been hit hardest. 

The Washington, D.C., region was considered a hot spot only a couple weeks ago, but much of the area is preparing to open up even more in the coming days. 

Northern Virginia is set to enter its second phase this Friday, while the Maryland suburb of Montgomery County will likely enter phase two early next week.