Maryland Governor Announces Three-Stage Plan for Reopening the State

By Robert B. Hopkins, Carla N. Murphy and Allison M. Midei 

On Friday afternoon, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced a three-stage plan to reopen the State called “Maryland Strong: Roadmap to Recovery,” which will gradually ease the current restrictions on businesses, congregate settings and social interactions. The plan is based on the recovery plans issued by the federal government, the National Governors Association, Johns Hopkins and the American Enterprise Institute.

Stage one of the plan will begin when Maryland sees a downward trajectory or consistent plateau in the State’s coronavirus numbers—with the key indicators being the rate of hospitalizations and number of patients admitted to the ICU. Because of increased testing, the number of total cases in the state is likely to increase and as a result, that number is less significant than hospitalizations and ICU admissions. Governor Hogan said the state has already made considerable progress in laying the groundwork for beginning to lift restrictions, including by (i) expanding testing capacity, (ii) increasing hospital surge capacity, (iii) ramping up the supply of PPE, and (iv) creating a robust contact tracing operation.

The governor is optimistic that if Marylanders continue practicing social distancing in the near term, the State could begin implementing the recovery plan in early May.

The Three-Stage Plan

Stage One – Low Risk

  • Lifts the stay-at-home order;
  • Reopens many small shops and businesses;
  • Permits lower-risk community activities to resume, including golfing, recreational boating and fishing, hiking, tennis, hunting, and limited outdoor gym and fitness classes;
  • Elective medical and dental outpatient surgeries and procedures may resume; and
  • Local governments have additional flexibility to open further establishments such as local parks, playgrounds, municipal recreation centers and libraries, if appropriate safety protocols can be followed.

Stage Two – Medium Risk

  • Begins if/when stage one activities resume without a spike in deaths, a sustained spike in ICU admissions and/or any significant outbreaks of community transmission;
  • Raises limits on permissible number of attendees at social gatherings;
  • More businesses may reopen, such as indoor gyms and childcare centers;
  • Transit schedules may begin returning to normal;
  • Indoor religious gatherings may resume with limited capacity;
  • Nonessential workers who cannot telework may return to work; and
  • Restaurants and bars may reopen with significant safety restrictions.

Stage Three – High Risk

  • Will not begin until there is either a widely available and FDA-approved vaccine or safe and effective therapeutics that can rescue patients with significant disease or prevent serious illness in those most at risk;
  • Reinstitutes higher-risk activities, including larger social gatherings;
  • High-capacity bars and restaurants may reopen;
  • Lessens restrictions on visits to nursing homes and hospitals;
  • Reopens entertainment venues; and
  • Permits larger religious gatherings.

Creation of the Coronavirus Recovery Team

In addition to unveiling the three-stage plan, the governor announced that he is transitioning the Maryland Coronavirus Response Team into a Coronavirus Recovery Team that includes not only doctors and public health experts, but also businesspeople, including Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, Arne Sorenson (president and CEO of Marriott), Robert Doar (president of AEI), Kevin Plank (executive chairman of Under Armour), Jim Davis (chairman of Allegis Group), Mark McManus (general president of the Union of Plumbers, Fitters, Welders and Service Technicians) and Augie Chiasera (president of the Greater Baltimore and Chesapeake Region for M&T Bank). The governor has directed the Maryland Department of Commerce to form advisory groups to develop recommendations and best practices for their respective industries to safely reopen and responsibly operate.