ANNAPOLIS — New state emergency orders and government COVID-19 warnings look to restrict and discourage Christmas holiday travel and get-togethers.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan issued new travel orders on Thursday, Dec. 17, along with new state warnings against public and private gatherings as Christmas approaches.
Hogan joins Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in warning against holiday travel and family get-togethers, worrying they will lead to more reported cases of the COVID-19.
Those mirror warnings issued by Fauci, Hogan and others to avoid travel and gatherings for Thanksgiving.
The new orders and warnings also come despite Maryland having the eighth lowest positivity rate for COVID tests and the ninth lowest per capita coronavirus cases in the U.S.
Hogan issued a new travel order “requiring Marylanders to limit all travel to essential purposes only.”
The state is also ordering Marylanders who do travel out of state as well as visitors to the state to either “obtain a negative COVID-19 test result or self-quarantine for 10 days.”
The new Christmas travel order does not apply to those traveling to or from Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington D.C.
Hogan said he was hoping for public cooperation with the travel orders.
But the language of the order does list violation of the state travel order as a misdemeanor with penalties potentially including one year in jail and fines of up to $5,000.
The Maryland State Police and local authorities (including some local police departments across the state) were deployed before Thanksgiving to do compliance checks on restaurants, bars and restaurants to make sure they were obeying state COVID orders.
They were also tasked with upping enforcement of state mandates on masks and social distancing.
The Maryland Department of Health has also issued a new advisory against Christmas and holiday gatherings.
The state advisory warns Marylanders against “all non-essential activities and holiday gatherings with people outside of one’s immediate household.” The state is also telling Marylanders not to attend public or private gatherings of more than 10 people.
The state previously warned against gatherings of 25 or more.
Hogan and the state police launched a COVID tip line last month for residents to report neighbors and businesses who are resisting or disobeying pandemic orders.
The governor said the aim of the new Christmas warnings is to reduce potential rises in COVID-19 cases.
“Our message today is simple: you are safer at home for the holidays this year. Making difficult sacrifices during these next few weeks will absolutely help to keep your family, loved ones, and your fellow Marylanders safe,” Hogan said.
The moves also come as the state deploys the first doses of COVID-19 vaccines and battles “anti-vax” sentiments. The governor has called up the Maryland National Guard to help with the state’s mass vaccination plans.