(July 31, 2020) Gov. Larry Hogan announced on Wednesday an expansion to his facemask order and effective Friday at 5 p.m., everyone above the age of 5 will be required to wear a mask in all public spaces of all businesses, as well as outdoors when social distancing is not possible.

City Manager Doug Miller said the City Council would meet Friday to discuss the declaration and enacting an emergency ordinance to make violations a municipal infraction. 

“This expansion of the masking order is an action that is fact-based, apolitical and solidly grounded in science, and while it can be an inconvenience, especially in the heat, wearing a mask is the single best mitigation strategy that we have to fight the virus, and the science and the data is very clear,” Hogan said. 

The governor said 30 states are now requiring masks to be worn in public, and members of his coronavirus recovery team, both scientists and business representatives, recommended the move. 

Cases are on the rise in several states and the federal government has named 21 states as red zones, urging those listed to impose more restrictions. 

Maryland was not included in that list,  although Hogan said the virus does not recognize state borders. 

He also stressed that Maryland is not yet in the clear, as troubling trends have developed over the last several weeks. 

Worcester County recently saw an upswing in cases and was considered the fastest growing hotspot in the state last week, with a positivity rate of 7.26 nine days ago. 

The positivity rate is the number of tests that come back positive. 

The county’s rate has since dropped back down to 5.5 percent range, Hogan said. 

Cases are rising particularly among younger people, with 56 percent of new reported cases attributed to those under the age of 40. 

Hospitalizations statewide have also increase by 28 percent, with 571 hospitalizations and 145 ICU beds being used as of Wednesday — younger Marylanders increasingly taking up of those beds. 

Hogan said this was still below the hospitalization rate in spring, and available hospital beds remained in sufficient supply, but concerning nonetheless. 

The statewide positivity rate has remained at or below the 5 percent rate consistently, which is the recommended percentage point per the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Nevertheless, “We do find ourselves in a fork at the road, a critical turning point, where we could either continue making progress, continue heading in the right direction, or ignore the warnings and spike back up like the rest of the country,” Hogan said. 

Maryland could not follow in the footsteps of the red zones, he said.

“Reversing course and shutting businesses for a second time has proved devastating for the states that rushed too fast and reopened too soon,” Hogan said. 

Josh covers everything Ocean City government and crime. He graduated from the University of Richmond in 2019 with a B.A. in French and Journalism.

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