Maryland has relaxed restrictions on outdoor activities and aims to begin phase one of its reopening plans next week, but all school buildings will remain closed for the remainder of the year, Gov. Larry Hogan said at a press conference Wednesday.
Maryland is on track to reopen next week thanks to flattening trends in the number of hospitalizations and ICU patients in the state, Hogan.
Over the past week, Maryland has "seen a good trend in hospitalizations" with five straight days downward in hospitalizations with a slight bump up Tuesday.
The number of intensive care patients in Maryland have also plateaued for eight straight days.
“If these trends continue into next week, we will be ready to lift the stay-at-home order and begin stage one of our recovery plan," the governor said.
That would include the reopening of “certain types of businesses and lower risk community, religious and quality of life activities.”
Under Stage 1, Maryland previously said would lift the stay-at home order, reopen some small businesses, resume elective outpatient surgeries and give “increased flexibility” to non-surge areas.
The state amended the stay-at-home order to allow for more outdoor activities. Starting at 7 a.m. Thursday, golf, tennis, boating, fishing, camping and other activities can resume, and state parks and beaches will reopen.
In-person classes, however, will remain cancelled for the rest of the school year, Dr. Karen Salmon, Superintendent of Schools in Maryland said. Online and distance learning will continue for now.
The state teacher's union said the decision was a tough one, but the safest choice. Individual school districts will make their own plans for graduation ceremonies.
Coronavirus Cases in Maryland by Zipcode
Data for ZIP codes with 7 or fewer cases is suppressed.
Credit: Anisa Holmes/NBC Washington
The Maryland Department of Health will also be issuing guidelines for the immediate resumption of elective medical procedures. Staff and patients will be screened and physical distancing maintained in waiting areas as elective procedures resume.
The governor also made note of some hopeful trends relating to the development of a COVID-19 vaccine. On Tuesday, the very first patients in the United States were given a test vaccine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine as part of a global coronavirus vaccine development program in partnership with Pfizer and BioNTech.
Gilead Sciences has also donated 1,600 doses of Remdesivir, an anti-viral drug proven to help COVID-19 patients, to the state of Maryland, the governor said.
The initial doses of Remdesivir will be deployed to Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, which have the highest number of cases in the state.