This morning I thought I would take a little time to do an opinion / data piece on the topic of restrictions on bars and restaurants in Maryland.
Bars and restaurants in Maryland have two significant statewide restrictions imposed by Governor Hogan back in November 2020:
- The governor issued an emergency order reducing indoor operations for bars and restaurants from 75% to 50%. Bars and restaurants in the State of Maryland are permitted to be open for seated and distanced service only, with strict capacity restrictions (November 10th Press Release)
- All bars, restaurants, and venues serving food and alcohol must close between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., except for the purposes of carryout and delivery (November 17th Press Release)
At the time in November 2020 these restrictions were understandable (even if not loved by many people or businesses). Maryland COVID-19 positivity rate (7 day rolling average) was significantly on the rise. On September 24th the statewide positivity rate was 2.51% and by November 10th the rate had risen to 5.6%…and by November 17th the rate had risen to 6.82%
I feel sure the Governor was seeing the numbers rise, hearing from experts that the numbers would continue to rise and probably made the right call based on the data at the time.
- In November the positivity rate hit a high mark of 7.19% on the 18th.
- In December the positivity rate hit a high mark of 8.14% on the 5th.
- In January the positivity rate hit a high mark of 9.47% on the 3rd.
But since January 5th the state has reported a decrease in the positivity rate from 9.44% to 6.64% reported for January 25th.
This is the most significant drop in positivity rate we have seen in a long time during this pandemic.
Recently Governor Hogan has made a significant push to get students back in school by March 1st (January 21st – Read More).
Per the COVID-19 dashboard from Maryland Department of Health nearly 400,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered across the state and there is a significant push to expand that in the near future – “Governor Hogan Announces Opening of Mass Vaccination Sites, Expansion of Pharmacy Program” (January 26th – Read More)
We are now in COVID-19 Vaccination Phase 1C:
Given those facts…maybe the time is now to ease the restrictions on bars and restaurants.
I am not advocating for no restrictions…now is not the time to let up…but maybe easing some restrictions on an industry that has been significantly impacted could go a long way for those businesses and employees in those businesses.
I would prefer a focus on enforcement of the rules as opposed to these current additional restrictions on the industry. Many businesses were following the rules across the state and it feels like they were impacted by those businesses that were not following the rules. A greater focus on enforcement would go a long way and allow those doing the right things to stay open and continue to employ more people.
Even if Governor Hogan eases restrictions at the state level the local jurisdictions would still have the ability to impose county / city specific restrictions. We have seen this happen in Baltimore City, Anne Arundel County, Prince George’s County and Montgomery County. We are now seeing some of those jurisdictions begin to ease their restrictions on indoor dining and capacity (Read More).
So my question this morning…it is time for Governor Hogan to consider easing statewide restrictions on this industry?
I think you can tell where I stand on this issue…let me know your thoughts in the comments.
I want to end the article with this statement…this article is in no way a criticism of how the Governor has handled the very difficult decisions he has had to make throughout this pandemic. This is just something I hope he and his staff are looking at given the most recent data trends and something they are considering to provide a boost to an industry that is hurting right now across the state.