WASHINGTON (FOX 5 DC) - Maryland is ready to enter the second phase of its economic recovery plan, Governor Larry Hogan announced on Wednesday – a step that will ease more of the restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The governor announced that phase two will go into effect on Friday at 5 p.m. - opening a number of businesses that have been shuttered for months.
The governor said that by Friday at 5, all Maryland counties will be able to enter phase 2 at their own discretion.
After phase one, a number of counties elected to stay behind.
FOX 5's Lindsay Watts reports Anne Arundel, Charles, Howard, Frederick, and Carroll counties will move into phase 2 reopening tomorrow.
On Thursday, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks set a tentative date of June 15 to ease additional restrictions.
As a state, the governor says, the positivity rate has dropped to 9.5 percent, and hospitalizations are at their lowest level in 50 days.
Montgomery County and Prince George's County, according to Hogan, have shown dramatic improvement - but are still facing COVID-19 rates well above the state average.
Prince George's County's positivity rate has dropped from 49 percent to 14.1 percent, while Montgomery County's has dropped from 32.6 percent to 12.3 percent.
Those two counties account for approximately half of the state’s cases.
Phase one included – among other things – retails establishments opening within limits, non-essential manufacturing facilities were permitted to reopen, and places of worship were opened with restrictions in place.
Phase two will continue opening some non-essential businesses.
Some of the businesses that will be permitted to open now include small and large retail outlets, office, media production companies, real estate offices, travel agencies, and auto dealer showrooms, among others.
Nail salons, massage and tattoo parlors and tanning salons will be permitted to reopen, but at 50 percent capacity, by appointment only, and with strict safety protocols.
In addition, the state government will reopen on June 8 - with the Motor Vehicle Administration and other agencies beginning phased reopening.
The State Board of Education will continue with its plan to reopen child-care centers as more parents return to work, and mass transit schedules will begin to return to normal.
If trends continue, the governor says, the next step, which may coincide with the school year, will be restoring outdoor amusements, fitness and sporting activities.
The governor’s blue print has changed here and there – and its implementation at the county and city levels has been markedly uneven throughout the state.
Hogan signed Maryland’s stay-at-home order in March, when COVID-19 was initially identified in Montgomery County, and then rapidly spread outward.
The state identified four pillars it would need in place to consider reopening: a 14-day decline in cases, a superior contact tracing system, hospital surge capacity and an expanded test capacity.
With those in place, the state was able to move forward as a whole – with numerous exceptions.
Even in the reopening phases, however, the governor and other state and local leaders have stressed the need to maintain social distancing, wear face coverings, and maintain thorough personal hygiene.