Maryland is set to lift additional statewide coronavirus restrictions, and restaurants will be allowed to begin outdoor dining this weekend, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced.
Hogan said the state can "safely move forward" into the next phase of its reopening plan. Aside from restaurants, Hogan said public pools, some youth sports and day camps will be allowed to open effective at 5 p.m. on Friday, with certain restrictions in place.
Retail stores will also be allowed to open indoor shopping, subject to occupancy restrictions, Hogan said.
"Over the past two weeks, we have been encouraged by all the successful reopenings across the state," Hogan said.
Hogan cited increased testing, a fully operational contact-tracing network, declining hospitalizations and a steady plateau of ICU admissions as the key metrics for being able to reopen.
If the trends continue, and hospitalizations and ICU admissions continue to decline into the next week, Hogan said the state could move into its second phase of reopening.
However, local governments can still make their own decisions about reopening. The counties that border D.C. — Prince Georges County and Montgomery County — have so far declined to move forward with the initial phase of Hogan's plan.
The governor said he understands some county executives may not be comfortable with reopening yet, as both areas have seen significantly higher virus transmission than the rest of the state.
Overall, the state's positivity rate — which is the proportion of positive tests to the number of people tested — has been declining since it peaked at nearly 27 percent on April 7, Hogan said. As of Wednesday, it had dropped by half.
But while the positivity rates of Prince George’s and Montgomery counties are still above the rest of the state, Hogan said they are declining dramatically.
"They started out in a really bad place, but they're all following the same trend of downward, cut in half. I think they ought to move forward," the governor said.
Hogan said that the vast majority of people are paying attention to the guidelines, but some people are still not taking the virus seriously.
He said he was "a little bit shocked" to see photos and videos of people crowding the beaches and boardwalks of Ocean City over Memorial Day weekend.
Hogan encouraged people to have "personal responsibility" and continue to practice physical distancing guidelines.
"You can't control everyone's individual behavior," he said.