Gov. Hogan orders masks worn in stores

ANNAPOLIS — On Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Larry Hogan signed an executive order requiring the use of masks or face coverings while shopping in any retail establishment. This includes, he said, “grocery stores, pharmacies and convenience stores, or when riding on any form of public transportation.”

Workers in the stores are also required to wear masks. To give management time to make necessary arrangements, “This order will go into effect Saturday, at 7 a.m.”

These further steps in Maryland’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic came on the day the state exceeded 10,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with 10,032. The governor said 2,232 patients are hospitalized, and 349 have died — 47 on Tuesday, and 40 on Monday, “making it our deadliest 48 hours yet,” Gov. Hogan said. On a brighter note, he added that 607 patients have recovered.

Though numbers are still climbing, the governor said early and aggressive action appears to be paying off. Projections by Johns Hopkins Health System last month indicated 360,000 Marylanders could be infected, with 12,000 dead by June 1, if these actions were not taken.
Plans are being made for a rollout of the state’s recovery phase. “These plans will be well thought out, gradual and safe,” Gov. Hogan said. The steps are:

• Exponential expansion of testing capacity. Already up by 5,000, the administration seeks to triple that figure to reach 10,000 tests per day.
• Increase hospital surge capacity by 6,000 beds. This work is ahead of schedule, Gov. Hogan said.
• Increase the supply of personal protective equipment. Last week, the state took delivery of 1 million face shields, and next week expects to receive 4.5 million N95 masks, 252 ventilators and other equipment.
• Build a robust tracing operation. Currently, there are about 250 persons conducting tracing of infections. The governor said he wants to quadruple that figure.

In the meantime, Maryland officials are working with the administrations of neighboring states and the federal government to coordinate their responses to the pandemic. But Maryland is still looking for additional help.
“Without sufficient federal investment, we will be unable to do all the things we are being asked to do,” he said. He added that he has been in touch with the Trump administration and others in D.C. to find support, and is grateful for the assistance that has been provided.

“I have been calling on our national leaders in Washington to put aside partisan politics to get this done for the American people,” he said.
Before turning over the podium to members of his team, Gov. Hogan praised a man he called an “unsung hero” for his service to the state’s citizens. Jimmy Beldon has garnered attention for his timely and expressive American Sign Language interpretations, standing next to the governor at his televised addresses.

Gov. Hogan presented Mr. Beldon with a framed commendation, then touched his chin and extended his arm, palm up, in the sign for, “Thank you.”

Helpful Coronavirus links

Maryland Department of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage

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