OCEAN CITY — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan issued a stay-at-home directive for state citizens effective this week, vowing stronger enforcement for those who continue to ignore prescribed social distancing practices.
Hogan on Monday announced a new executive order urging all Marylanders to stay at home beginning at 8 p.m., except for those employed in designated essential businesses or to go out for essential supplies including food. It’s important to note those essential businesses include grocery stores, gas and convenience stores, the media and carryout or delivery restaurants.
Essentially, the new executive order — the 26th Hogan has implemented since the COVID-19 crisis emerged — does not represent a major departure from recent actions. Instead, the new executive order changes the state’s position of suggesting Marylanders stay at home whenever possible to urging it and even ordering it.
“We have reached a critical turning point in the battle to stop the spread of this virus,” he said. “Maryland has already implemented some of the most aggressive social distancing measures in the nation. Despite the rapid escalation, some people are still choosing to ignore those executive directives.”
While most in Maryland have been practicing social distancing and remaining in their homes whenever possible, many are still not taking the crisis seriously. In at least one example over the weekend, a Charles County man hosted a bonfire party with around 60 guests in perhaps the most publicly reported flaunting of the governor’s directives. Situations such as that have forced Hogan to move from suggesting stay-at-home practices to ordering them.
“Anyone engaged in that behavior is violating state law and putting their fellow Marylanders at risk,” he said. “Therefore, I am issuing a stay-at-home directive. No Marylander should leave their homes unless they are employed in an essential business or have essential needs to go out such as food or needed supplies or medical needs. We’re no longer suggesting they stay home, we’re directing them to do so.”
Hogan said state and local law enforcement will be stepping up enforcement efforts. Any person knowingly and willfully ignoring the directive is subject to up to one year in jail or a $5,000 fine or both. State and local law enforcement officials have been directed to strictly enforce the order.
“Unfortunately, we’re only at the beginning of this crisis,” he said. “It’s going to get considerably worse before it gets better. I realize this is incredibly difficult for everyone in our state. I want people to know we’ve been through difficult challenges before and we are going to get through this together.”
Hogan said the new executive order should not be interpreted as citizens being prisoners in their own homes. People can still go out on a very limited basis for food and needed supplies or to take a walk or walk their dogs while practicing social distancing.
“I want to be clear people aren’t locked in their homes,” he said. “We’re just telling people to stay in their homes except for essential and necessary things. You need to get out for food and other essential things, but you should not be going out and congregating with a crowd of 100 people in a park somewhere.”
Hogan said the faster everyone complies with stay at home and social distancing directives, the faster the state and the nation can flatten the curve on the spread of the virus.
“Each and every one of us has a chance right now to do something to help our neighbors,” he said. “Every single Marylander can be a hero just by staying home and by practicing social distancing. It will keep you and your family safe, but it could also save the lives of thousands of others.”