Governor warns against travel, promises jail time, fines for disobeying COVID-19 orders

Gov. Larry Hogan is seen here in a photo courtesy of the Executive Office of the Governor holding a news conference Tuesday, Nov. 10 during which he announced increased positivity rates for coronavirus cases in Maryland.

ANNAPOLIS — Gov. Larry Hogan is rolling back indoor capacities at restaurants, discouraging out-of-state travel and said those who ignore COVID-19 orders could face potential jail time and fines as reported cases of the virus increase in Maryland and other parts of the United States.

“We are headed in the wrong direction,” Hogan said during a briefing on Tuesday, Nov. 10, in Annapolis. It follows up on warnings about a rise in coronavirus cases Hogan issued earlier this month.

The State of Maryland is discouraging travel to U.S. states where there have been increases in coronavirus cases reported by health agencies.

“Today, I am worried we have now crossed over into the danger zone,” Hogan said of the recent rise in new cases and hospitalizations in Maryland.

Hogan also wants local authorities — including the police — to step up their enforcements of mask mandates, social distancing and other orders related to the virus.

“Too many residents and businesses have COVID fatigue and have begun letting their guard down,” Hogan said. “Too many businesses are failing to comply with state regulations and orders.”

Hogan said those who fail to comply with COVID-19 orders could face jail time, fines, the loss of liquor licenses and shutdown. He also voiced concerns about social functions and house parties.

Hogan said the state has seen more than 1,000 new cases each of the last seven days and COVID hospitalizations are at their highest levels statewide since June. The positivity rate for coronavirus tests statewide was 5.24% on Tuesday. Hogan said that is above the 5% threshold set by the World Health Organization and U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

“We cannot afford to ignore these trends and patterns,” Hogan said.

The state reported 1,338 new COVID cases, 12 new deaths and 54 new hospitalizations on Tuesday. There are currently 761 COVID hospitalizations, and there has been 4,084 reported deaths statewide from the virus since the pandemic began in March.

The governor allowed restaurants to go back to 75% indoor capacity in September. That order is being pulled back and restaurants will go back to 50% indoor capacity, Hogan said Tuesday.

The Maryland Department of Health also is discouraging indoor gatherings of 25 people or more. The order does not apply to churches or religious services, the governor said. The state health agency is also telling nursing homes to stock up on masks and protective gear.

The governor has ordered state agencies to return all non-essential employees to teleworking and encouraged private employers to do the same or have staggered hours to limit potential exposures.

“Our primary goals continue to be keeping our hospitals from overflowing and stopping more Marylanders from dying,” Hogan said.

Hogan did not order any new business shutdowns or restrictions. He said other actions could be taken if the virus situation worsens.

“We may need to take additional state actions in the days and weeks ahead if the situation continues to deteriorate, Hogan said.

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