Reopen Maryland Protest Illustrates Divide Over Coronavirus

Deb Belt

ANNAPOLIS, MD — Honking horns by drivers circling State Circle in Annapolis on Saturday drove home the point that some Marylanders disagree with continuing Gov. Larry Hogan's stay-at-home order due to the new coronavirus. The protest from noon to 2 p.m. was dubbed Operation Gridlock Annapolis and organized by Reopen Maryland with the demand that the governor reopen the state by May 1.

Police reported no problems during the protest. Hogan has not responded to the event on his social media feeds.

The protesters made their point with signs that said, "We are all essential, reopen MD," "Open up our churches, we need Communion," and "Freedom over fear." Some carried copies of the U.S. Constitution, others waved Trump 2020 or American flags.

Area of Maryland with lower infection rates — western and southern counties and the Eastern Shore — could ease restrictions on businesses and gatherings, Republican state delegates said in a letter to Hogan.

“We fundamentally believe that what works in one region of the state may not be applicable to others,” members of the House of Delegates Republican Caucus wrote in their letter Saturday, reports the Capital Gazette.

The group describes itself on its Facebook page as "Maryland citizens concerned about the impact of mass shutdowns and school closures in response to COVID-19. We are committed to peaceful advocacy for public health measures that respect Marylanders' civil rights, economic well-being and educational access. We support immediate, responsible reopening of our state's business, educational and religious institutions."

On April 16, the group created a petition for people to sign and show support for reopening the state. According to the Change.org petition, the group had about 2,000 signatures on Saturday.

The Maryland Health Department on Saturday reported 38 more coronavirus deaths in the state and 736 new cases, bringing the state's death toll to 463 and the total number of cases to 12,308.

Maryland reported its first three coronavirus cases on March 5. As of Saturday morning, 53,062 people have tested negative for the disease, 2,757 have been hospitalized, and 771 have been released from isolation.

According to projection data updated Friday released by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Maryland is a day away from reaching its peak in daily coronavirus deaths. The IHME model projected April 19 as the peak for the state, and expects 46 coronavirus deaths on April 20. The organization uses overall trends to identify the peak date, rather than the single highest reporter number.

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Some have spoken out against the initiative on the group's Facebook page.

"Can't have a economy, if your work force is dead..." wrote one commenter.

While a Hogan supporter said, "OUR Governor is doing a great job. This Annapolis stunt is just a stunt."

"Besides being a loss of jobs and vital tax revenue, a shuttered business is a shattered dream. We can preserve those dreams and protect our citizens," said spokesperson Caryn Abbott in a statement.

In a press conference held earlier this week, Hogan said he was beginning to craft plans for the state's recovery and reopening. But the state's coronavirus case numbers continue to increase. He also ordered people to wear masks while shopping and using public transportation.

Other demonstrations calling for states to reopen were slated to take place in Texas, Wisconsin, Idaho and Pennsylvania.

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This article originally appeared on the Annapolis Patch