Governor Larry Hogan warns Maryland counties of COVID-19 threat growing in bars

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan delivered an urgent warning to the state’s county leaders on Tuesday, saying that if they don’t enforce COVID-19 restrictions in bars and restaurants now, they risk sliding back on reopening.

The governor released alarming numbers in a memo to county leaders, noting that the positivity rate for people under 35-year-olds is 85 percent higher than people over 35.

Download the FOX 5 DC News App for Local Breaking News and Weather

He says poor social distancing and the failure to use masks in bars and restaurants is to blame.

And while beach areas are a major concern, Maryland Environmental Health Bureau Director Dr. Cliff Mitchell says it’s a state-wide problem.

RELATED: Coronavirus case totals and deaths in the DMV

“As we’re seeing more activity in reopening bars and restaurants, decrease in social distancing and not as much compliance with facial coverings we’re worried that this is a real opportunity for us to see an increase in overall caseloads in the state,” Mitchell said.

Hogan warned county leaders that 12 states have rolled back on the reopening process for bars and restaurants, and he does not want to do the same thing in Maryland.

READ MORE: Three more Ocean City bars close after employees test positive for COVID-19

At Tommy Joe’s in Bethesda, a new plexiglass bar shelf, masks, distancing and rigorous cleaning are the norm.

But already, Montgomery County has closed two businesses – Republic Garden and Society Lounge in Silver Spring, and issued warnings to two others for not complying with COVID-19 restrictions.

Tommy Joe’s manager says he’s concerned that responsible restaurants will pay a price for the irresponsible ones.

“Blanket restrictions based on some places that aren’t following the rules is just not the way to do it, you know if there are some businesses not following them they should be fined or closed but the places that aren’t doing that shouldn’t be closed as part of a blanket restriction,” Tommy Joe’s General Manager Terry Cullen says.

Hogan says that the vast majority of bars and restaurants in Maryland are in compliance, but said there are some who are flagrantly violating the law and endangering public health.

He added he can’t allow a small segment of willful violators to squander the collective efforts of Marylanders in the fight against COVID-19.