UPDATED: Newest coronavirus limits in Maryland are shopping mall shutdown, smaller crowds
Prince George’s man in 60s with 'underlying medical condition' is state's first fatality from disease
Gov. Larry Hogan speaks in Annapolis on Thursday on the latest measures the state is taking to slow the spread of coronavirus.
Image from live stream of Hogan's remarks
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said Thursday that the state is requiring shopping malls to close and putting new restrictions on crowd sizes and travel, all to help slow the spread of the coronavirus disease.
The measures included:
- Closing all enclosed shopping malls and entertainment venues by 5 p.m. Thursday
- Limiting travel on MARC, Metro and other transit systems to emergency workers, front-line health care providers and others “essential to the supply chain.”
- Restricting access to Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport to ticketed passengers only, with the exception of those assisting passengers with disabilities. State transportation police, he said, would enforce the policy.
- Limiting gatherings to 10 people. The number was 250, then dropped to 50.
“This fight against this global pandemic is a race against time, and we must take action now,” he said.
The new limits come after Hogan announced on Wednesday night that a Prince George’s County man in his 60s was the first person to die of coronavirus disease, or COVID-19, in Maryland.
As of Thursday morning, there were 107 confirmed cases in Maryland, up from 85 the previous day. The new total included 33 cases from Montgomery County, the most in the state.
Hogan also announced Thursday that three universities in Maryland would finish their semester online, and he has asked the University System of Maryland to follow suit, and prevent students from returning to campus.
Hogan said 900 hospital beds have been made available out of the 6,000 that the state is looking to add to its supply, and Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore is opening another floor to add greater capacity. By April, he said, he expected another 1,400 beds to be available.
The Prince George’s County man who died had an “underlying medical condition,” Hogan said in a news release on Wednesday.
“I ask all Marylanders to join me in praying for his family and loved ones during this difficult time,” Hogan wrote in a statement. “As we pray for his loved ones, I ask that we continue to pray for each other, for our state, and for our nation as we face this crisis together. We must use every possible resource at every level of government to save lives and keep people safe.”
On Thursday, 30 Marylanders who had contracted the virus were older than 65. Another 76 people were ages 18 to 64.
Hogan said during the press conference Thursday morning that a 5-year-old girl in Howard County had tested positive for coronavirus, the first case of a child in Maryland reported to have the disease.
Many early COVID-19 cases in Maryland were considered travel-related after they were contracted by people on overseas trips. Of late, more cases are being considered to be spread through the community.
Hogan and health officials have emphasized that people in their 60s or with underlying health problems are at a greater danger of contracting COVID-19.
Many people especially, if they are young and healthy, might get the disease, but only have mild to moderate symptoms, Montgomery County’s health officer, Dr. Travis Gayles, has said.
But for people in high-risk populations, the danger can be high.
The public has been reminded to take precautions such as avoid crowds; “social distancing,” or standing six feet apart from other people; and washing hands.
Hogan and other governors have been pressing the federal government to supply more testing kits. Maryland plans to switch Motor Vehicle Administration emissions stations into drive-thru coronavirus testing areas — but only if there are enough tests available to make the idea useful, Hogan has said.
Maryland announced its first three cases of COVID-19 on March 5. All three were Montgomery County residents — a couple in their 70s and a woman in her 50s, who was not related to the couple. All three contracted the virus while on a cruise on the Nile River in Egypt and all three have since recovered.
Health and government officials generally have not given follow-up reports on the progress of other patients.
This story will be updated.