ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Indoor and outdoor venues in Maryland, including restaurants, can resume normal operations this weekend, Gov. Larry Hogan announced Wednesday.
The governor also said the state’s indoor mask mandate will be lifted when 70% of Maryland adults receive at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. As of Tuesday, the governor’s office said, 65.4% of adults had been vaccinated in Maryland.
The governor said he expected the state would reach the 70% mark before President Joe Biden's national goal of hitting it by July 4.
“Here in Maryland, our plan is to get everything back to normal by Memorial Day," Hogan said at a news conference. "We are making amazing progress towards that goal. In fact, we’re just 4.6% of our vaccinations away from reaching it.”
All remaining capacity and distancing restrictions that have been in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic will be lifted on indoor and outdoor dining on Saturday, the governor said.
Indoor and outdoor venues will be able to resume normal operations, Hogan said. Remaining capacity restrictions will be lifted on indoor entertainment venues and conventions, and all outdoor entertainment, art and sports venues, with masking protocols in place.
About 86% of people 65 and older have been vaccinated, as well as 65.4% of people over 18, Hogan said. Maryland has administered more than 5.3 million COVID-19 vaccine doses and more than 2.4 million people have been fully vaccinated.
"As a result of all this progress, all our health metrics continue to show dramatic improvement across the board," Hogan said.
The state's case rate per 100,000 people has fallen 64% over the past four weeks, Hogan said, and hospitalizations also continue to drop, down by more than 60% from a peak a couple of months ago.
“We truly are closer than ever to getting back to a sense of normalcy," Hogan said, adding that the fastest way to get there is for people to be vaccinated as quickly as possible.
Hogan said Pfizer vaccine eligibility for 12- to 15-year-olds will be open Thursday at 11 mass vaccination sites and pharmacies.
Local jurisdictions can choose not to go as far as the governor in lifting restrictions. In Baltimore, Mayor Brandon Scott announced that the city will lift restrictions beginning at 6 a.m. Monday, but not as far as the statewide guidelines will allow.
In Baltimore, capacity restrictions will be lifted for all establishments with exception of three categories that will be limited to 50% capacity They include convention and banquet facilities, including the Baltimore Convention, community halls and social clubs and indoor venues, such as venues with live music or performances, movies or sporting events. Those will be limited to 50% of capacity.
Hogan announced that the state will work with federal officials to begin the process of reinstating work search requirements.
Hogan also announced the cruise terminal in Baltimore will be reopening. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working directly with cruise ports and industry representatives to prepare for a safe return to business.