Howard County Executive Calvin Ball announced today his framework for reopening, HoCo RISE, Reopening Innovatively, Safely, and Effectively. Based on HoCo RISE, Ball also released guidance to Howard County residents, businesses, and organizations on what will remain closed and what will reopen Friday, May 15th at 5 p.m. To view the complete HoCo RISE framework, please click here.
“HoCo RISE provides additional data points that are specific to Howard County, our hospital, and our infrastructure to combat COVID-19,” said Ball. “We’re a data-informed, people-driven community and this framework will allow us to make thoughtful decisions about how to responsibly reopen.”
Ball continued, “At this point, we have made progress and are on track to continue increasing contact tracing and testing. However, there are still concerns about our proximity to counties with much higher case rates, our ability to access testing reagents, and whether we will be able to sustain this progress. The Governor’s announcement came as a bit of surprise. We did not expect him to go as far as he did, especially in areas like religious gatherings.”
“We recognize the significant burden our residents, workers, and businesses have faced over the past six weeks. This week, another 3,199 residents filed for unemployment insurance and pandemic unemployment assistance, bringing Howard County’s total unemployment claims to more than 26,000. We are still working towards many of the building blocks needed for additional reopening, but we feel as though some limited retail and outdoor activities can resume safely at this time.”
County Executive Ball has made the following decisions on each of the Governor’s Phase One actions:
· Stay-At-Home Order
o Howard County did not implement a county-wide Stay-At-Home order and one will not be implemented at this time. Residents are encouraged to stay at home as much as possible and abide by the Governor’s “Safer-At-Home” public health advisory.
· Religious Services
o Howard County in-person religious gatherings may resume with 10 people or less and are strongly encouraged to take place in outdoor settings.
o The following is a non-exhaustive list of Howard County retail businesses that may open but are restricted to curbside pick-up or delivery only:
§ Art galleries
§ Clothing and shoe stores
§ Furniture stores
§ Lawn and garden stores
§ Pawn shops
§ Sporting goods stores
§ Tobacco and vape shops
o The following retail establishments may operate at 50% capacity:
§ Pet Groomers
§ Animal Adoption
§ Car Washes
o Howard County manufacturing businesses may open following the guidelines issued by the State of Maryland.
· Barber Shops/Beauty Salons
o Howard County barber shops and hair salons may open by appointment only with only one customer allowed in a location at a time. Businesses should follow guidelines issued by the State of Maryland.
§ The Governor’s Phase One reopening does NOT include nail salons, esthetician services, or massage parlors.
· Archery/Shooting Ranges
o Howard County outdoor archery and shooting ranges may open with appropriate physical distancing and mask requirements.
o Howard County campgrounds will remain closed.
· Marinas/Watercraft Rental
o Howard County Recreation & Parks boat rentals will remain closed.
o Columbia Association’s boat rentals will remain closed.
· Horse Boarding/Riding Facilities
o Howard County horse boarding and riding facilities may open with appropriate physical distancing and mask requirements.
· Mall in Columbia
o Mall in Columbia stores with exterior access may open for curbside pick-up or delivery only.
The Governor’s Executive Order keeps non-essential businesses closed, including, but not limited to:
· Bingo halls
· Bowling alleys
· Pool halls
· Amusement parks
· Roller and ice skating rinks
· Miniature golf establishments
· Social and fraternal clubs, including American Legion, VFW, Elks Clubs
· Any other establishment subject to the admission and amusement tax
· Tattoo Parlors
· Tanning salons
· Massage parlors
· Establishments that provide esthetic services or provide nail technician services
Howard County government buildings will remain closed at this time to members of the public.
Howard County’s reopening framework, HoCo RISE uses data to inform decision-making around reopening and, if necessary, when to reinstitute restrictions:
1. The number of new cases.
2. The number of new hospitalizations.
3. The number of patients admitted to ICU.
4. The number of tests conducted.
5. The amount of available PPE.
6. Surge capacity at Howard County General Hospital (HCGH).
In addition to each of the data factors above, HoCo RISE follows the Governor’s guidance on the building blocks for reopening. All data is a point in time as of May 13, 2020. Data regarding surge capacity is according to CRISP.
· Expanded Testing Capacity: Currently testing 1,300 people per week at 7 sites across the county. The goal is to test 6,500 people per week.
· Sufficient Surge Capacity: Howard County General Hospital has 133 staffed acute care beds (89% utilization), 33 staffed intensive care unit beds (67% utilization), and 38 ventilators (21% utilization). Additional capacity is available as needed in medical tents.
· Ramping Up the Supply of PPE: Howard County Health Department has secured 54,559 N95s, 100,480 surgical masks, 10,807 gowns, 9,176 face shields, approximately 310,000 gloves and other PPE. To increase supply, the County will continue securing donations, decontaminating masks for reuse, and partnering with manufacturers to develop innovative solutions.
· Robust Contact Tracing Operations: Howard County has 11 staff dedicated solely to contact investigation and contact tracing and 15 staff dedicated to outbreak investigation. The Health Department will eventually have more than 60 contact tracers available.
Howard County has also implemented an Internal Working Group which is in the process of developing guidance to assist county departments with safely bringing back employees and reopening government facilities.
As Governor Hogan moves through the phases of the Maryland Strong Roadmap to Recovery, County Executive Ball will use HoCo RISE to:
· Take a phased approach to reopening government safely, following the recommendations of the internal HoCo RISE Working Group
· Provide guidance to non-governmental entities, as needed
· Use the HoCo RISE metrics to ensure the timeline laid out by Governor Hogan is appropriate for Howard County
HoCo RISE is also focused on long-term recovery, including but not limited to the following initiatives:
· Rental Assistance and Eviction Relief
· Job Training
· Behavioral Health Resources
· Food access
· Business Support
Howard County is applying for its share of CARES Act funding ($28 M available for non-health expenses) to provide business assistance and support other unbudgeted county expenses. The county will also soon be launching a virtual disaster assistance center to help businesses and individuals access needed services.
Article update: Correction to HoCo RISE link provided https://www.howardcountymd.gov/Portals/0/HoCoRISE_V2.pdf?ver=2020-05-14-180437-437