State Watch

Maryland to allow all businesses to reopen, including movie theaters and concert venues

All businesses in Maryland will be allowed to reopen with some capacity restrictions starting later this week, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced Tuesday.

Hogan's order to move into the third phase of reopening starting Friday includes movie theaters and indoor concert venues, which will be able to reopen at a maximum 50 percent capacity or 100 people, whichever is smaller. 

Outdoor venues will be allowed to operate with a maximum of 200 people, and houses of worship will be allowed to expand capacity to 75 percent. 

Local governments will be allowed to keep the current restrictions in place for longer if they choose, Hogan said during a press conference.

The order is aimed at allowing more businesses to open for the Labor Day weekend, but Hogan cautioned that residents should not let their guards down.

"Moving into stage three does not mean this crisis is behind us, and we must remain vigilant so we can keep Maryland open for business," he said. 

Hogan's road map for recovery does not include specific benchmarks for moving into different phases but instead is based on testing capacity, contact tracing, supply of personal protective equipment and hospital capacity.

However, Hogan said on Tuesday that the state's infection statistics have improved in every county.

According to Maryland's calculations, the statewide positivity rate has been under 5 percent for 68 consecutive days and under 4 percent for 24 consecutive days.

Hogan said the state has also seen a "continued and sustained drop" in cases per 100,000 people, which is a metric many states are using as part of their travel restrictions.  

Hogan has used the low infection rates to push schools to reopen for in-person classes. Last week, he said every county school system had the authority to reopen for in-person learning, even though public schools are starting the year online.

On Tuesday, Hogan criticized schools for not taking any actions to plan for in-person learning and "basically saying the dog ate my homework." 

The state Board of Education on Tuesday voted to require school systems that haven't developed a plan for returning to in-person instruction until 2021 to reevaluate their reopening plans and develop a hybrid model by the end of the first quarter.

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