Maryland eases some coronavirus restrictions on outdoor recreation, allowing golf, boating and more

The Baltimore Sun

Maryland remains under a stay-at-home order with schools and many businesses closed, but Gov. Larry Hogan announced a slight easing of restrictions Wednesday on outdoor recreation and nonemergency medical procedures.

The governor amended his stay-at-home order to allow for individual and small group sports — such as golfing and tennis, outdoor fitness instruction, recreational fishing and hunting, recreational boating and horseback riding — starting Thursday.

Also, Maryland’s state-owned beaches and parks will open Thursday for walking and exercise. Local governments will have the flexibility to take similar actions at their discretion, Hogan said.

“I know how anxious people are to get outside, both for their physical and mental well-being, and we know that outside activity is safer than inside activity,” Hogan said during a news conference Wednesday at the State House in Annapolis.

He said his coronavirus advisory team had “much discussion” Tuesday on the issue of outdoor activities, and members ultimately agreed to allow “lower-risk outdoor activities.”[Ocean City to reopen beaches, boardwalk this weekend, as resort town sees first coronavirus cases] »

Hogan also announced that hospitals can resume nonemergency procedures, which had been barred in an attempt to keep inpatient populations low in case a surge of COVID-19 cases threatened to overwhelm them.

“Many Marylanders may have put off important procedures, screenings and other things that they really need to attend to,” Hogan said. “If there’s something that you have had to delay — like a PET scan or a biopsy, an angioplasty or an orthopedic procedure — you should now be able to take care of those time-sensitive procedures.”

The changes marked the first easing of Hogan’s strict statewide restrictions, imposed starting in March to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The governor has pushed back against a wider reopening, saying the state needs to reach a sustained decline in the number of hospitalizations for treatment of the illness.

The governor’s move to reopen golf courses followed lobbying by owners and operators of clubs. A Politico reporter even asked him about it in April during a live interview.

“I want to get you on the record on this critical issue,” Politico reporter Jake Sherman asked. “Will golf courses in your state open any time in the near future?”

“Is there particular golf course that you would like to have open?” Hogan responded, chuckling. Hogan went on to say that opening golf courses would be “one of the early things that we do” as part of reopening — a pledge he fulfilled Wednesday.

David G. Bannister, board member of the Caves Valley Golf Club in Baltimore County, said he thinks golf is an activity that can be done safely.

While some courses might reopen immediately, Caves Valley plans to take its time preparing the facility and open May 22.

“We need a couple weeks to get things ready to go,” Bannister said. “Caves is a high-end experience. In order to present it the way you want, it takes a little time to tidy up.”

Republican lawmakers also had pressed to allow golfing, including U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, Maryland’s only Republican in Congress. Though he’s not a golfer, Harris said as an anesthesiologist he understands how to control infections.

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