Metro Weekly

Maryland governor orders all bars, restaurants to close

Larry Hogan says restrictions may seem extreme, but are needed because pandemic is "much worse" than expected

Larry Hogan – Photo: Facebook.

On Monday, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) ordered all Maryland bars, restaurants, movie theaters, and gyms to close in order to curb the potential spread of coronavirus, or COVID-19.

Speaking at an open-air press conference from Annapolis, Hogan said the mass closures will take place starting 5 p.m. on Monday. However, grocery stores, banks, pharmacies, and other essential services will remain open.

Under the governor’s emergency order, restaurants will not be allowed to seat customers, but will be able to provide drive-thru, carryout, and delivery services. 

Hogan said that the restrictions were necessary because the disease and its effects are likely to be “much worse” than most people expected when news of the virus first broke. Addressing Marylanders, he said that the restrictions will be disruptive and “may seem scary,” but noted that the state has never faced anything like a pandemic before, reports The Baltimore Sun.

“We should continue to expect the number of cases to dramatically and rapidly rise,” he said. “This is going to be much harder, take much longer and be much worse than almost anyone is currently understanding.”

Hogan said it was essential to act in the absence of clear guidance from the federal government.

“The governors are really leading and taking charge in their individual states and are acting on what they think is the best thing,” Hogan said. “Because while the federal government has had some guidelines — which are changing — they have not given clear directives.”

Hours later, President Trump held a news conference in which he urged Americans to avoid public places like restaurants and bars, and to avoid congregating in groups of more than 10 people at a time.

The Trump administration has also suggested that Americans homeschool their children and avoid nonessential travel. But their recommendations came only after several states and major cities had imposed their own restrictions on public gatherings, closed public schools, and instituted regulations to close or limit the amount of customers that restaurants and taverns serve.

Notably, in nearby D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser, following recommendations from the D.C. Department of Health, ordered all licensed nightclubs and multi-purpose facilities to close. Restaurants and taverns could remain open, but would be limited to no more than 250 people, and had to comply with various regulations to space out seating and eliminate service to standing customers.

At least seven other states — New York, Ohio, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Washington State — have also ordered bars and restaurants to shut down, with more states poised to follow suit.

Hogan previously ordered Maryland’s casinos, racetracks, and off-track betting parlors to close. Last Thursday, he issued another order prohibiting large gatherings and events of more than 250 people, in compliance with recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But those recommendations have since been revised downward as concerns about the virus’s spread have experts voicing alarm about whether health care facilities have the capacity to accommodate a possible surge in infections that could require some individuals to be hospitalized.

On that front, Hogan said that the state is seeking to add 6,000 more hospital beds, and is even assessing whether to allow closed hospitals to reopen, in order to ensure health care facilities don’t become overburdened. The state currently has about 8,000 hospital beds, according to Frances Phillips, Maryland’s Deputy Secretary for Public Health Services.

“By these actions, we’re going to stop the spread,” Hogan said of the restrictions, “and we’re going to save lives.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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