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Maryland removes capacity limits on businesses, restaurants

Maryland removes capacity limits on businesses, restaurants
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Maryland is lifting many of its coronavirus restrictions, including capacity limits on stores, gyms and restaurants, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced Tuesday.

Large outdoor spaces such as stadiums and racing facilities, as well as indoor businesses including theaters, live music venues, wedding venues and conference centers will operate at 50 percent capacity, Hogan said.

The state will keep its mask mandate and will require businesses to maintain physical distancing. That means people will not be allowed to stand and crowd together in a bar or restaurant. 

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"The very simple step of wearing masks continues to be the best single mitigation strategy we have to stop the spread of COVID-19," Hogan said at a press conference. 

Local jurisdictions have been allowed to keep stricter rules in place than the state, and while that won't change, the governor said he thinks counties should follow the state policy.

The new order lifting restrictions will take effect at 5 p.m. Friday. 

"The most important thing is we have kept the masking and distancing requirements. Lifting capacity limits while still maintaining all those orders, we think, is a safer approach" compared with some states that have lifted mask requirements, Hogan said.

He added that the lifting of restrictions is a "prudent, positive step in the right direction" made possible because of increasing vaccination rates and declining test positivity rates and hospitalization numbers.

Hogan said his administration is balancing the public health of residents with rebuilding the economy.

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"It's time to get people back to work," he said.

More than half of Marylanders over 65 and more than half of the state's entire Phase 1 population has been vaccinated. But those numbers account for a little less than 10 percent of the state.

"The sun is shining, spring is coming, and the weather is getting warmer. We want to stress that outside activity continues to be safer than indoor activity," Hogan said. 

Still, he added that "the virus is still with us, and it remains important to continue to take precautions to stay safe."