Amid widespread coronavirus transmission, Maryland Gov. Hogan warns of 'most difficult’ months ahead

Pamela Wood and Jeff Barker, The Baltimore Sun
·4 min read

As the coronavirus surged and county leaders put restrictive measures in place Thursday, Gov. Larry Hogan warned of difficult months ahead and touted more federal money the state is receiving to build up a stockpile of personal protective equipment and plan for vaccinations.

“We are experiencing an out of control spike across the United States and we are seeing widespread community transmission here in Maryland,” Hogan said at a news conference at the State House in Annapolis.

“The sad truth is the next several months will likely be by far the most difficult that we have faced,” the Republican governor said.

Hogan ordered no new restrictions Thursday, but in a response to a reporter’s question, said: “Might we have to take more restrictive actions over the coming weeks and months? Absolutely, we might.”

The governor announced Maryland is getting an additional $70 million through the federal CARES Act, on top of more than $2 billion the state previously received.

The $70 million will be used in a variety of ways:

$20 million to build up a state stockpile of personal protective equipment, including gloves, gowns and masks. Maryland is “on track” to have a 90-day supply, exceeding the federal government’s recommendation of a 60-day supply.

$15 million for more employees and improved software and fraud detection at the Department of Labor, which has been overwhelmed by requests for unemployment insurance.

$10 million for rent relief for low-income tenants in state-funded properties.

$10 million for continued planning for a coronavirus vaccination program. With vaccine trials beginning to wrap up, Hogan said the state will face a challenging task. “We’ve built a COVD-19 infrastructure from scratch. But this vaccination plan will be yet another unprecedented undertaking for our state,” he said.

$10 million for food banks.

$2 million to the Department of Human Services to help children in foster care.

$2 million to the Department of Human Services to improve handling of applications for food stamps and energy assistance.

$1 million to continue a program to sample wastewater to detect coronavirus infections.

Officials of several local governments made a flurry of announcements Thursday, limiting activities in response to the increase in coronavirus infections and hospitalizations. Also, the state’s top judge shut down all civil and criminal trials until at least January.

The state has seen nine consecutive days with at least 1,000 new infections, and hospitalizations have risen to 863, an increase of more than 200 just since Sunday.

Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties put new limits on the capacity of restaurants and ordered residents not to have gatherings of more than 10 people indoors. Those announcements followed restrictions put in place earlier in Baltimore City and Montgomery County.

Anne Arundel’s newly announced rules shut down recreational athletics in the county, starting Monday. Harford County also took aim at youth sports, suspending indoor recreation programs and outdoor sports, including tournaments.

Harford County is also closing county facilities to the public and authorizing county government employees to telework until further notice, according to an announcement from County Executive Barry Glassman, a Republican.

“We really are in a war with this virus and we have done well. We have won some battles,” said Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman, a Democrat. “We cannot afford to desert in the middle of this as we’re nearing the end of this, we believe. So, stick with us, please.”

“We really need to hunker down. That is the message of the day,” said Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, a Democrat. “We are in the midst of another surge.”

Some local leaders said they’ve been acting in the absence of strict statewide measures. Hogan on Tuesday ordered restaurants down to 50% capacity for indoor dining, down from 75%.

Pittman said that because of the requirements to keep tables 6 feet apart and limits on the number of patrons per table, many restaurants weren’t at 75% capacity anyway — so Hogan’s order would make little difference. Pittman ordered county restaurants down to 25% capacity indoors on Nov. 20, and encouraged residents to order takeout and “tip generously.”

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball announced new relief grants for businesses. He said the county would follow the newly tightened state restrictions.

Hogan also cautioned people Tuesday against traveling out of state and encouraged indoor gatherings of no more than 25 people, but those actions were suggestions, not requirements.

He said Thursday that he was “taking my own advice” by not having a large family dinner for Thanksgiving and, instead, planning a meal with his wife, Yumi.

Baltimore Sun reporters Phillip Jackson and Ben Leonard and Baltimore Sun Media Group reporters S. Wayne Carter Jr., Donovan Conaway and Brooks DuBose contributed to this article.

This article will be updated.

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