OCEAN CITY — Stopping short of issuing a shelter-in-place order, Governor Larry Hogan on Monday issued a new executive order closing non-essential businesses and hammering home the importance of staying home, observing social distance directives and minimizing interaction.
While some states over the weekend issued shelter-in-place orders for their citizens, Hogan’s executive order issued on Monday morning stops short of confining residents to their homes. The executive order does close many businesses deemed non-essential under federal guidelines effective at 5 p.m. today.
However, the list of businesses deemed essential and thus can remain open is relatively broad. For example, in the immediate sense, grocery stores will remain open as will convenience stores, liquor stores, pharmacies and other establishments that provide essential services. In addition, closer to home, restaurants will still be able, and are even encouraged, to continue to serve food and other goods for carryout, delivery or curbside pickup.
Basically, while non-essential businesses will close at 5 p.m. today, and again the list of exemptions is rather expansive, the landscape hasn’t changed dramatically after Monday’s executive order from where everyone was at the same time yesterday. However, and it couldn’t be emphasized enough, Marylanders are urged, but not ordered, to stay at home and only venture out for the most basic of necessities.
“This new executive order effective at 5 p.m. today closes all non-essential businesses,” said Hogan during Monday’s press conference. “We are not at this time ordering Marylanders to shelter in place. However, we are encouraging people to follow the directives already issued to prevent crowds of 10 or more to gather. Unless you have an essential reason to do otherwise, stay in your homes.”
Hogan thanked those who have taken the “stay at home” directives seriously for doing their part to stem the spread of the COVID-19, or coronavirus and keeping their families, friends and neighbors safe and healthy.
“Over the last several weeks, we have taken unprecedented action to keep Marylanders safe and stop the spread of this virus,” he said. “I’d like to take a moment to thank the overwhelming majority of Marylanders who are taking this crisis seriously.”
However, Hogan said during the Monday press conference issuing the new executive order, too many citizens have not taken the “stay at home” directives seriously and mentioned some examples specifically.
“Unfortunately, many are still not taking this seriously,” he said. “Over the weekend, we saw crowds of people out and about looking at cherry blossoms. We also saw crowds of people in Ocean City on the beach and on the Boardwalk.”
It’s important to note the Ocean City Mayor and Council on Sunday issued a declaration closing the beach and Boardwalk in the resort until at least April 15 with certain very limited exceptions for local residents who live within the town’s corporate limits.
Again, while stopping short of issuing a shelter-in-place order, Hogan could not emphasize enough the importance of staying home and following the social distancing directives and promised swift enforcement for those who choose to ignore the directives.
“If you are engaged in this type of activity, you are breaking the law and literally endangering the lives of others,” he said. “Because of the irresponsible and reckless behavior of many, we are taking more aggressive actions to disperse gatherings and encourage everyone to remain in their homes.”
Clearly, stopping the spread of the virus and protecting the health and safety of the citizens of Maryland is paramount, but Hogan and some of his cabinet heads outlined numerous ways for small businesses and individuals to survive the associated economic downturn associated with the crisis. Those programs include rapid and thorough unemployment insurance assistance for those laid off from jobs and other resources to help individuals and families get through the crisis.
Hogan and the various cabinet officials outlined billions of dollars of almost immediate economic assistance programs for small businesses in Maryland from grants to low-interest or no interest loans to help meet operating expenses, fund payrolls to keep employees working and assistance with rent or mortgage payments. Essentially, Hogan said while stemming the virus and keeping Marylanders safe and healthy was the top priority, another battle was being waged on a parallel course to at least ease the associated economic downturn.
“Our first priority is saving the lives of thousands of Marylanders and protecting the health and safety of the people of this state,” he said. “We are also facing a huge battle against a tremendous economic turndown. We’re tackling both of those battles simultaneously.”
A somewhat sullen but confident Hogan throughout the press conference illustrated what leadership looks like during a crisis.
“These actions will save the lives of thousands of Marylanders,” he said. “We will have your backs in the weeks ahead. I want to thank the people of Maryland who have helped just by staying home. I also want to thank those who have delivered meals, helped elderly neighbors or have given blood.”
The governor said Maryland, and the rest of the country and the world, had not yet reached the peak of the crisis and the number of confirmed cases would continue to spike as more testing becomes available. However, he issued assurances Maryland and its citizens would get through it by working together and following the directives.
“I know how incredibly difficult this is and there is a great deal of anxiety,” he said. “None of us know how bad this will get or how long it will last. Just know there is a great deal of people working around the clock on this. We’re all in this together and we will all get through this together.”