Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.
Maryland Governor Hogan moved the state into Stage Three of its reopening plan on September 4, 2020 at 5:00 p.m. in Order 20-09-01-01. This move permits practically all Maryland businesses to open, including theaters. Marylanders are strongly encouraged to follow the most current guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Maryland Department of Health regarding social distancing. Employees also are encouraged to telework where possible.
Staying consistent with previous reopening orders, the governor’s September 1 order permits local jurisdictions to opt to delay reopening or to impose more restrictive local orders. Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties and Baltimore City have announced they will delay moving to Stage Three at this time.
The most significant change Stage Three brings to the state is that indoor and outdoor theaters may reopen to the general public for live performances and motion pictures subject to the following restrictions:
- the total number of persons permitted in an indoor theater at any one time shall not exceed the lesser of (i) 50% of the theater’s maximum occupancy or (ii) 100 persons; and
- Outdoor Entertainment Venues1 must limit the total number of persons to the lesser of (i) 50% of that venue’s maximum occupancy or (ii) 250 persons.
Restaurants, Bars, and Social Clubs
The protocols for food service establishments will not change in Stage Three. Maryland restaurants, bars, and social clubs (e.g., American Legion posts, VFW posts, and Elks Clubs) with dining facilities may continue to offer outdoor dining in addition to carry-out and delivery services. Restaurants offering outdoor dining must follow strict protocols, including:
- Seating patrons at least six feet apart, except for households seated together;
- Ensuring that no more than six people are seated together at a table unless they are members of the same household;
- Using single-use disposable paper menus or sanitizing reusable menus between each seating;
- Sanitizing outdoor tables and chairs between each customer seating;
- Training staff in current COVID-19 health and workplace guidelines;
- Implementing screening procedures, including daily temperature checks of all staff; and
- Requiring staff to wear masks or face coverings when interacting with other employees or patrons.
Any restaurant that offers indoor dining must continue to adhere to the following rules:
- Require all staff to wear face coverings, in accordance with the face coverings order (explained here);
- Limit the number of persons to no more than 50% of the establishment’s maximum occupancy;
- Not serve food in a buffet format;
- Not serve customers who are not seated; and
- Clean and disinfect tables and chairs between each seating according to the CDC and Maryland Department of Health guidelines.
Further guidance and recommended practices for restaurants can be found here. Businesses should remember that local officials may impose more restrictive capacity limits or health and safety rules, so businesses should ensure they are familiar with any local applicable guidelines.
Retail Stores and Malls
Retail operations may increase occupancy to 75% the maximum number of people. To the extent possible, employers are encouraged to:
- Designate with signage, tape, or by other means at least six-foot spacing for persons in line;
- Sanitize, or provide customers with a means to sanitize, handles of carts and baskets;
- Provide staff and customers with clean restrooms stocked with soap or sanitizer;
- Allow staff to wash their hands at least once every 30 minutes; and
- Post signage at each entrance advising customers about the requirement to wear face coverings.
The rules governing fitness centers did not change in Stage Three. Fitness centers remain subject to a 50% maximum occupancy limit. As of June 29, 2020, all Maryland jurisdictions permit fitness centers to reopen at 50% capacity.
Maryland casinos must continue to adhere to 50% occupancy capacity. As of June 29, 2020, Prince George’s County joined the rest of the state and reopened its casinos at 50% occupancy capacity.
Personal Services Businesses
The restrictions on personal service businesses—including nail salons, massage therapists, tanning salons, and tattoo parlors—have not changed. These businesses must still limit operations to 50% occupancy and appointment-only services.
Maryland has published a best practices guide for personal services businesses, which can be found here.
In Stage Three, Maryland religious facilities may increase occupancy capacity from 50% to 75%.
Reopening Plans for State Agencies
State agencies continue to reopen. Visit the state's official website for a full list of agencies accepting in-person visits by appointment. Any agency with an expected occupancy of 10 people or more must conspicuously post notice of social distancing practices and must provide visitors the capability of washing their hands.
The state’s 24 school districts have all opted to begin the school year in an all-virtual format.
Ongoing Closures: Senior Care
Though all other businesses may reopen to the public in Stage Three, all senior facilities in Maryland remain closed to the public.
The governor’s Stage Three order maintains previously-issued face covering requirements. Persons over the age of five are required to wear face coverings when:
- Indoors, if the establishment is open to public;
- Using public transportation;
- Obtaining health services;
- Outdoors if six feet of social distance cannot be achieved; and
- Engaged in work where interaction with others is likely.
A person who knowingly and willfully violates the state order or any local order is guilty of a misdemeanor. If convicted, the individual is subject to imprisonment not exceeding one year or a fine not exceeding $5,000, or both.
Employers should consult counsel to ensure they implement specific safety guidelines in compliance with local, state, and federal antidiscrimination and wage and hour laws.
1 Venues in Maryland at which live performances occur or motion pictures are shown outdoors, and at which entry is limited to ticketed customers.