Howard County Executive Calvin Ball announced the lifting of additional restrictions for retail, barbers and hair salons, as well as religious institutions. According to Ball’s Executive Order, effective Friday, May 29 at 7 a.m., retail, barber and hair salons will be able to operate at 50 percent maximum capacity with additional guidance specific to each industry.
Religious institutions and gatherings will be permitted to hold outdoor services up to 250 people. Comprehensive guidelines for each industry are detailed in the Executive Order, additional interpretative guidance will be available to businesses this week.
“On May 13 when Governor Hogan announced that many decisions regarding reopening would be delegated to local jurisdictions, I made the difficult decision to keep certain restrictions in Howard County. At the time, our data showed we weren’t ready to go as far as the Governor’s Order,” said Ball. “After the Governor’s announcement we released HoCo RISE, our framework outlining the metrics we track to make decisions on how Howard County will reopen innovatively, safely, and effectively. Since announcing HoCo RISE, our metrics are showing some promising trends and we’ve made progress on the building blocks for reopening, including a lower ICU and ventilator utilization rate, a lower daily average of new cases, and an increase in our contact tracing operation.”
“After spiking to 78.8 percent on May 15, the ICU utilization rate at Howard County General Hospital has fallen or stayed the same for 7 of 14 days, and as of May 23 was at its lowest level since April 1. The ventilator utilization rate for the same time period is 18.6 percent. The average daily case count, which is expected to rise as testing becomes more available, is down to an average of 27 cases per day after surging to an average of 33 cases for the two-week period that started on April 26. Lastly, Howard County has increased the number of contact tracers from two people when the pandemic started to 35,” Ball said.
“Howard County has been working with our partners in the community, neighboring jurisdictions, and at the State level to flatten the curve of COVID-19,” said Mike Hinson, Director of the Office of Emergency Management. “Between County efforts and the assistance of these partners we have procured nearly half a million pieces of personal protective equipment and supplies. We also have over a million more pieces on order. Additionally, we continue to monitor emerging solutions and utilize new technologies as they become available in our ongoing fight against COVID-19.”
Beginning at 7 a.m. on Friday, May 29:
- Retailers in Howard County may open at 50 percent of maximum occupancy.
- Retailers are still encouraged to use curbside pick-up whenever possible.
- Barbers and hair salons may open at 50 percent of maximum occupancy including staff.
- Businesses must continue to operate by appointment only.
- Staff and clients must wear masks.
- Religious institutions may hold outdoor services of up to 250 people, as long as all participants can maintain appropriate physical distancing of 6 feet.
- Indoor services are still limited to a maximum of 10 people.
The Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services has provided guidelines for businesses to determine their maximum occupancy to assist during the COVID-19 pandemic. All retail stores must post signage at or near the front door reminding customers to wear masks and maintain physical distancing. Howard County will provide signs digitally that business owners can print and display in their businesses.
“Over 80 percent of our businesses have fewer than 20 employees, so this pandemic has affected a majority of our business community,” said Larry Twele, Howard County Economic Development Authority CEO. “This next phase allows most of our small business owners to re-open their doors, bring back their employees and begin to serve their customers. We are encouraged that we continue to make progress as a community and are able to take this next step towards economic recovery.”