Gov. Larry Hogan urged “all Marylanders to stay home to help us slow the spread of this virus” as he announced that the state’s confirmed cases of coronavirus had reached 107, an 88 percent increase in the last 48 hours.
Those cases include the first Maryland child — a 5-year-old girl in Howard County — to test positive for COVID-19. Maryland had reported its first death due to the virus late Wednesday.
“Last night it was my sad duty to report the first death in Maryland as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, a Prince George’s County resident in his 60s with an underlying health condition and no known travel history,” Hogan said Thursday morning. “This Marylander was affected with the virus through community transmission. And I know that all Marylanders join me in praying for his family and loved ones.
“Unfortunately, we are only at the beginning of this crisis and while this is the first death here in Maryland, unfortunately it will not be the last,” Hogan said at an outdoors press conference in Annapolis.
Across the region, there are more than 220 confirmed cases in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. Delaware now has 30 cases.
“This fight against this global pandemic is a race against time and we must take action now. We cannot afford to delay,” Hogan said.
The governor again sternly reminded Marylanders to avoid large gatherings.
“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.
“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 governor also announced several new steps he had taken to address the pandemic, including:
• Access to the BWI terminal will be restricted to ticketed passengers and badged airport employees only. Exceptions will be made for those visitors who are assisting disabled passengers.
“No one else will be granted access,” Hogan said. “Maryland Transportation Authority Police will be strictly enforcing this policy effective immediately.”
• Passengers are urged to restrict use of all public, mass transit for essential travel only.
“No one, no one, should get on a MARC train, Metro, Amtrak train or bus, or any of our transportation assets unless you are an emergency personnel, a front-line healthcare provider or your job is essential to the supply chain,” Hogan said.
• Any events of more than 10 people in close proximity at all locations, establishments and venues across the state are prohibited.
• All enclosed shopping malls and all entertainment venues will be closed effective 5 p.m. Thursday, March 19.
• The governor has asked the Board of Regents of the University System of Maryland to move classes online for the remainder of the spring semester. Hogan noted that Johns Hopkins, Morgan State, and McDaniel universities had recently taken that step. Washington College also has shut down its campus for the rest of the semester and is preparing for remote instruction.
• Hogan issued an executive order to allow trucks to exceed their legal weight limits “in order to facilitate the delivery of important equipment and supplies.”
• The governor announced that 900 hospital beds have already been made immediately available and Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore City is opening a new floor to add capacity.
Hogan had asked the state health department to look at ways to expand Maryland’s hospital capacity by 6,000 beds, including opening closed floors at hospital facilities and re-opening closed facilities if possible.
“By early April, we expect to have an additional 1,400 beds open as we … continue to work to reopen closed floors and hospital facilities across the state,” he said.
The governor issued a related executive order to provide regulatory flexibility to allow emergency medical services personnel to augment other healthcare providers.
• Hogan will issue an executive order to allow the delivery and carryout sales of alcohol by restaurants, bars, distilleries, and wineries, subject to local liquor laws and local regulations.
“We’re doing this to help small businesses and restaurants and to protect vulnerable people from having to leave home,” he said. “But I want to urge people to be responsible and to avoid large crowds in stores.
• The governor said Maryland now has more than 350 meal distribution centers open and operating for children across the state. For locations, go to mdsummermeals.org.
• The state has launched a new Maryland Unites website at governor.maryland.gov/marylandunites to highlight the ways and opportunities that Marylanders can volunteer in assisting their neighbors and communities.
Hogan said there have been many displays of compassion and generosity in recent days, noting that a number of the state’s distillers are now producing bottles of hand sanitizer instead of alcohol and Pasadena Boatworks had recently donated 14,000 respiratory masks to the state health department.
“This truly is one of the most daunting challenges that our state has ever faced,” he said. “But sometimes the worst times have a way of bringing out the very best in people and Marylanders are a shining example of that. In these times of anxiety and uncertainty, people all across our state allows look for ways to reach out and help their neighbors.”
• The governor urged all Marylanders who are healthy and feeling well to consider donating blood, noting the Red Cross is reporting severe blood shortages across the country and in Maryland as a result of COVID-19. Go to redcross.org to find out where to donate.
“I know the actions that we’ve been taking may seem extreme and they seem frightening, but as I said before they are also absolutely necessary to save the lives of thousands of Marylanders and hundreds of thousands of Americans,” Hogan said. “And we’re all in this together. And if we all do our part, and if we rise to this challenge, to meet this moment, we will get through this together. And I just ask that you continue to pray for each other and for our state and for our nation in the days ahead.”