Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan ordered enclosed malls and entertainment venues to shut down by 5 p.m. Thursday and waived weight limits on trucks needed to move supplies as the number of coronavirus cases in the state continued to increase.
The latest efforts to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 came a day after the state's first reported death from the disease. Maryland's 107 reported cases now include a 5-year-old Howard County girl, the first child known to contract the virus in the state.
Fighting the pandemic is a “race against time,” Hogan said. He said he was amending his previous executive order, reducing the permissible number of people at gatherings to 10, in accordance with federal guidelines.
“Despite all of our repeated warnings for weeks and despite the rapid escalation of this virus across our state, the region, the nation and the world, some people are treating this like a vacation or a spring break with parties and cookouts and large gatherings at some of our parks," Hogan said.
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"Let me be very clear, if you are engaged in this type of activity, you are in violation of state law and you are endangering the lives of your fellow Marylanders.”
The vast majority of people recover in about two weeks from this illness with no more than a fever and a cough, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause severe illness requiring care at hospitals where beds and protective gear are in short supply.
The first person to die in Maryland after contracting the new virus was a Prince George’s County resident in his 60s who suffered from an underlying medical condition.
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Earlier this week, Hogan ordered state health officials to assess and develop a plan to open closed hospital floors and medical facilities to increase the inventory of beds in Maryland by 6,000. The Republican governor said Thursday that 900 beds have already been made available and an additional 1,400 are expected to be ready by early April. Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore is opening a new floor to expand capacity.
Across the state, gyms, movie theaters, restaurants and bars have already closed. Drive-thru, carryout and delivery service are still allowed.
At the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, students are scheduled to begin classes remotely on Friday, after the superintendent delayed their return from spring break indefinitely.
“At this point, there is simply too much uncertainty with this virus and the associated risk to bring the Brigade back,” Vice Adm. Sean Buck wrote to midshipmen in a memo on Wednesday.
To assist businesses seeing declining sales, Hogan issued an executive order allowing delivery and carry-out sales of alcohol by bars, restaurants, distilleries and wineries. He urged people to be responsible and avoid large crowds at stores.
Hogan also ordered the state's Department of Transportation to keep anyone other than ticketed passengers, people assisting disabled passengers and badged personnel from entering Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.
For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, like pneumonia. Virginia officials have asked anyone 65 or older or anyone with chronic health conditions to self-quarantine.
The worldwide death toll crept toward 10,000 Thursday as the total number of infections topped 220,000, including nearly 85,000 people who have recovered.
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