Maryland’s state and local law enforcement agencies say they are willing to arrest those who disobey Gov. Larry Hogan’s executive orders restricting public gatherings to no more than 10 people and temporarily closing businesses. The moves are aimed at stopping the spread of the Coronavirus in the state.

Hogan issued an executive order on March 19 after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Maryland Department of Health recommended limiting gatherings to prevent the spread of the COVID-19, a highly infectious respiratory disease that spreads easily from person to person and can result in serious illness or death.

“Following updated CDC guidelines, today we have amended our previous executive order to prohibit any events of more than 10 people in close proximity at all locations, establishments, and venues all across Maryland,” the governor said at a March 19 press conference.

Health authorities have also urged that the 10 person gatherings practice social distancing, i.e., that all those involved keep a minimum distance of six feet apart from each other.

Previously, groups of up to 250 were allowed to congregate and then that number was revised to 50.

Maryland has 349 confirmed cases of the Coronavirus.

Shutdown

On March 23, Hogan announced even more stringent measures. He ordered the closing of all non-essential businesses in the state, including retail stores that had been allowed to remain open. The order does not include industries deemed by the federal government to be essential such as such as health care, law enforcement, emergency workers, food, energy, water, transportation, public works, communications, government, critical manufacturing, financial services, chemicals and defense, the Baltimore Sun has reported.

Daycare centers are not required to close. Big box stores will remain open, but Hogan has asked local law enforcement to help those retailers deal with crowd control. Liquor stores are exempted from the order, allowing for delivery and carryout sales. Food and beverages can be ordered for carryout, drive-through or delivery.

Courts are closed with certain exceptions and all of Maryland’s public schools, including universities and colleges, have also been closed temporarily.

The tighter restrictions were imposed in part because Maryland residents are not abiding by social distancing guidelines and have been ignoring the ban on mass gatherings of more than 10 people, according to the Baltimore Sun.

No unnecessary travel

Maryland authorities have also urged residents to restrict travel while the Coronavirus crisis is unfolding.

The governor said he had ordered the Maryland Department of Transportation to restrict access to Baltimore-Washington International Airport’s terminal to ticketed passengers only and airport employees with badges. The only exceptions are for those who are assisting disabled passengers. Maryland Transportation Authority police will be strictly enforcing this policy, the governor said.

The use of other forms of transit should be restricted to essential travel. “No one — no one should get on a MARC train, metro, Amtrak train, or bus, or any of our transportation assets, unless you are an emergency personnel, a front-line healthcare provider, or your job is essential to the supply chain,” Hogan said.

Maryland residents have been urged to call 311 to report large gatherings and businesses that are not in compliance with the governor’s orders.

Penalties for violating Maryland law on public gatherings during COVID-19 crisis

Gov. Hogan emphasized that Maryland authorities will enforce the orders. “We’re not playing around,” he said.

A person who knowingly and willfully violates the order is guilty of a misdemeanor and, if convicted, can be imprisoned for up to one year or a fine of up to $5,000 or both.

If you’ve been charged with violating Maryland’s COVID-19 laws forbidding large gatherings or closing businesses, a Baltimore/Ocean City Coronavirus defense attorney can help. The consultation is free. The attorneys at The Law Offices of Thomas J. Maronick can help. You can contact Thomas Maronick on his cellphone at 410-885-1775, the law office at 410-885-1775 or the website for a free consultation.