Maryland’s governor says he’s hopeful that if residents continue to practice social distancing the state can lift the stay-at-home order and some restrictions on businesses within weeks.
Gov. Larry Hogan laid out on Friday afternoon a three-stage plan he called “Maryland Strong: Roadmap to Recovery.” He said the first stage of lessened restrictions could start in early May if the number of people hospitalized and admitted to intensive care because of the virus plateaus or declines for 14 straight days.
"I'm optimistic that if Marylanders continue staying home and continue practicing physical distancing a little while longer, that our numbers could continue to plateau. And I'm hopeful that we could then be able to begin our recovery in early May,” the governor said in remarks in Annapolis.
Under Stage 1, Maryland would lift the stay-at home order, reopen some small businesses, resume elective outpatient surgeries and give “increased flexibility” to non-surge areas.
Hogan cautioned that the timeline could change, depending on what health care professionals and experts advise.
There are four “building blocks” the state needs to recover. They are enhancing testing capacity, increasing the number of hospital beds, raising the amount of personal protective equipment and creating a robust contact tracing operation. The state has made significant progress in all four areas, Hogan said.
He promised a “well-thought-out, gradual, safe and effective” plan to reopen the state. The number of virus cases and deaths is still on the rise, so it’s not time to lift restrictions yet, he said. And reopening too fast could be deadly.
“If we try to rush this and we don’t do it in a thoughtful and responsible way, it could cause a rebound of the virus,” he said.
More than 16,000 cases of the virus have been diagnosed in Maryland and 723 people have died as of information released earlier Friday. Go here for full details.
Coronavirus Cases in DC, Maryland and Virginia
COVID-19 cases in D.C. and by county in Maryland and Virginia
Stage 2 will raise the limit on how many people can attend social gatherings; allow “limited, physically distanced” religious gatherings; open bars and restaurants with safety restrictions and allow non-essential workers who cannot telework to return to work.
Stage 3 will reinstitute larger gatherings and events, reopen high-capacity bars and restaurants, lessen hospital restrictions, allow family visits to nursing homes and allow larger religious gatherings.
The governor announced a Maryland Coronavirus Recovery Team that includes medical professionals and executives from companies including Marriott International, Under Armour and M&T Bank.
Maryland residents should expect life to be different for a long time, the governor said.
"It is important to recognize that until a vaccine is developed, the way we go about our daily lives and the way we work is going to be significantly different for a while longer," he said.
The governor said he was sorry that unemployment benefit applicants encountered technical glitches Friday morning with the state’s new application portal. He said the site crashed for about an hour because of a huge number of visitors. Hogan said that he too was “frustrated” by the problem, which was fixed by the contractor that developed the site. About 15,000 people were able to file new claims Friday.
Stay with NBC Washington for more details on this developing story.