(May 14, 2021) State regulations no longer stand in the way of fully vaccinated people and the air they breathe.
On Friday, just one day before all covid-fueled business capacity restrictions across the state were set to go away, Gov. Larry Hogan took the measure a step further and lifted mask mandates both indoors and outdoors.
“Following the surprise announcement on the change of policy by the CDC, and in consultation with our health department and our team of public health officials and medical experts, the state of Maryland will now also be lifting the mask mandate in conjunction with all the other measures,” Hogan said during a news conference Friday evening.
“For anyone who has not yet been vaccinated masks are still strongly recommended in most situations,” he continued. “However if you’re fully vaccinated, which means two weeks have passed since you received your second shot or your one dose of Johnson and Johnson, you should feel free to safely resume any activity without wearing a mask indoors or outdoors.”
The only exception, he said, is “public transportation, health care settings and schools.” He also said that officials will not be checking for proof of vaccinations.
The CDC’s latest directive, which was issued late Thursday, stated that vaccinated people can “resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.”
Hogan pointed out that businesses across the state are still free to set their own policies rgtarding mask directives, but that “there just will no longer be any legal mandate from the state.”
During a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Hogan announced he was lifting capacity restrictions both indoors and outdoors for dining and entertainment venues across the state. He said then that he expected to lift the indoor mask mandate when 70 percent of adult residents received at least one dose of the vaccine, which he believed would occur by Memorial Day. And while the CDC announcement bumped up the timeline, Hogan added Friday that he still expects the state to reach the 70 percent vaccination rate by the holiday.
According to the state health department website, the rate was at 65.6 percent Friday.
“It goes up about a half percent every day,” he said.
Hogan lifts capacity restrictions on businesses, indoor mask mandates could follow
With an ambitious goal to have all Maryland adults vaccinated by Memorial Day, Gov. Larry Hogan announced this week that he is lifting a barrage of restrictions on indoor and outdoor dining and entertainment this weekend — and that the lifting of indoor mask mandates may be close behind.
“The only thing that will remain in place for the time being is the indoor mask requirement,” Hogan said during a news conference Wednesday afternoon. “Which we will be able to lift as soon as we reach the federal goal of 70 percent of adults receiving at least one dose of the covid-19 vaccine.”
As of Thursday, the state was at a 65.4 percent vaccination rate.
The restrictions set to expire Saturday include those on outdoor entertainment, art and sports venues, all ticketed events, indoor entertainment and convention venues, and indoor and outdoor dining.
“Effective as of Saturday every business in Maryland will be able to open at 100 percent with no restrictions,” he said.
The ability of businesses to take advantage of the jump from the prescribed 50 percent capacity to 100 percent hinges on whether they can find the workers needed to handle twice the number of customers.
To address the worker shortage, which has forced some local businesses to raise wages and even to offer signing bonuses for new hires, Hogan is reimposing a search requirement for unemployment.
Hogan said Wednesday that he has directed the Maryland Department of Labor to work in with the federal administration to reinstate work search requirements by late June. Under those regulations, unemployment aid recipients must make at least three job contacts each week they receive benefits and report the details of that search to the state. Failure to do that could result in the loss of benefits.
The impetus for the change in the unemployment procedure and the end of capacity restrictions is a decline in the state’s positivity rate, hospitalizations, transmission and case rates, and the fast pace of vaccinations among residents.
As of Wednesday, the state’s overall covid positivity rate was 2.74 percent with 770 people hospitalized. Hogan said those are the best numbers he has seen since late September.
He also said that he hopes to have all adults vaccinated before Memorial Day, more than a month earlier than President Joe Biden’s July 4 target date.
In Worcester County, officials are working to contribute to those positive numbers.
Travis Brown, the Worcester County Health Department public affairs officer, said 150 people received vaccines at Springfest last weekend. The health department is also holding regular vaccine clinics this week. For information about where and the they are and how to sign up, visit WorcesterHealth.org.