Maryland issued a stay-at-home order for residents Monday morning, joining states such as California and Michigan in taking drastic steps to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The order, which goes into effect at 8 p.m. Monday, prohibits residents from leaving home except for trips considered essential, such as venturing out for food and medicine. People who violate the directive may be subject to one year in jail, a $5,000 fine or both.
At a news conference announcing the order, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said residents should use “common sense” to decide whether to leave the house. People can still take walks, pick up takeout food from a restaurant and go out to perform essential tasks — such as to fix a plumbing issue — but should not be congregating in large groups or shopping for leisure. “People are not locked in their homes,” he said.
Hogan said Maryland and the wider Washington region has reached a “turning point” in its coronavirus response. The region saw a surge in cases and fatalities over the weekend, with more cases on Monday, bringing total to 2,840.
Maryland has 1,414 known coronavirus patients and 16 people have died in the state.
Hogan said that without further action, the national capital region might soon resemble the New York metro area, which has become a global epicenter for the virus. Hogan chided some residents for violating his previous executive orders imposing strict social distancing measures.
“We are no longer asking or suggesting Marylanders to stay home,” Hogan said, “we are directing them.”
In his announcement, Hogan emphasized the importance of the national capital region to the nation’s coronavirus response. There are more than 440,000 federal workers in the District, Maryland and Virginia. The National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration, which have been working on a coronavirus vaccine, are headquartered in Maryland.
“A major outbreak among our critical federal workforce could be catastrophic,” Hogan said.
He urged the federal government to provide more personal protective equipment to the three jurisdictions, but added that Maryland is “no longer relying on or waiting for the federal government” to act.
The state is helping the University of Maryland medical system reopen the 130-bed Laurel Regional Hospital and has ordered 500 additional bed packages for other hospitals to prepare for an expected surge in patients.