Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan will detail his “recovery roadmap” in a press conference on Friday. From the early indications, it’s not going to feature a definitive timeline for easing of restrictions as sought by many in the Ocean City area. What it will include is some specific phases for reopening when the time is right. It appears today the timing is not right yet.
While Hogan and President Trump are not on the same page about much these days, there does appear to be a consensus on what needs to happen to allow for reopening of the marketplace. Before any sort of phased opening of the economy can be begin, hospitalizations, acute care admissions and deaths must decline for two weeks. Neither indicator was decreasing in Maryland as of Thursday – hospitalizations were up 152, deaths rose 49 and acute care admissions were flat. The good news is the increases are not surging by as much as they were a week ago, resulting in some light being seen at the end of this COVID-19 tunnel.
In media interviews Thursday, Hogan revealed some details about his recovery roadmap, which some Maryland health officials believe could begin as soon as mid-May. Many in the local business community are optimistic mask and social distancing restrictions will be lifted by Memorial Day weekend, but they realistically expect it to be the Fourth of July before any sense of normalcy returns to the resort.
A key piece of Hogan’s recovery plan will involve tiering businesses based on their risk level. All “non-essential” businesses, such as retail stores, restaurants, hotels and real estate offices, will be classified as high, medium and low risk with each classification carrying a certain set of guidelines for opening and how it should look. Hogan has described his reopening plan as “carefully and gradually.”
“We’ll get some quality of life things back, in a safe way, with masking and social distancing,” Hogan said Thursday in The Baltimore Sun. “Every one of us wants to get things open as quickly as we can, but we’re only going to do that in a safe and smart way. It’ll be a while before you see people close together.”
A preliminary survey of businesses and nonprofits in the marketplace confirm many operators were recipients of the Payroll Protection Program’s (PPP) first phase, including this newspaper company. The PPP has been described by many as a “lifeline” because it’s keeping us in business and our people employed. The PPP has essentially bought time by funding payroll expenses for two-and-a-half months. Unfortunately, there were many operators who were not so fortunate, and they are irate their applications were not approved, especially when they hear who did receive a piece of the $350 billion program, including Harvard University, which boasts a $41 billion endowment, and national restaurant companies Ruth’s Chris and Shake Shack.
In a letter to the Small Business Administration, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot outlined his hopes the second round of PPP gets the funds in the hands of small business operators who are dying amid this unprecedented government shutdown.
“Small businesses across Maryland and throughout our country are on life support and on the precipice of permanent ruin. For example, our Bureau of Revenue Estimates has reported that our state’s hospitality sector – which includes local restaurants and employs about 458,000 Maryland residents – could lose up to 90 percent in employee wages and more than 60 percent in revenues as a result of just one month’s closure. When just one small business goes into such dramatic decline or closes its doors for good, it has a deeply disruptive effect on an entire ecosystem of workers, consumers and other community-based businesses,” Franchot wrote. “Businesses such as these – not major corporations that are highly capitalized by Wall Street – must be the exclusive emphasis of the Paycheck Protection Program and the exclusive beneficiary of every single dollar that will be approved for this program by Congress.”
Watching President Trump’s press conferences are not good for my health. I like to deal with facts and they are tough to come by with these daily debacles. These are clearly campaign events and they are nearly as embarrassing for the president as his immature tweets.
Along those lines, over the last month, I’ve dreaded each time Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announces a press conference. He truly has earned the nickname “Lockdown Larry” with his series of executive orders that have been handed down over the last five weeks. Unlike Trump, however, Hogan deals with reality. I don’t always like what he has to say, but he can at least be trusted for sharing facts.
In Delaware, Gov. John Carney is somewhere in the middle between Trump and Hogan. Carney shocked businesses along the Delaware resorts on Tuesday when he expressed doubt he would open beaches and Boardwalks for Memorial Day weekend.
“A lot of things are going to have to fall in our favor,” said Carney. “I would like nothing more than to do that, but it’s really hard to see. That’s going to be a really hard thing to do in a month. We’ll see. We’re going to be guided by the situation on the ground.”