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Gov. Larry Hogan has signed an executive order that will require all Marylanders to wear face coverings while in stores and on public transportation to limit the spread of COVID-19, and gave an update on strike teams at Maryland facilities and PPE equipment in a press conference on Wednesday.

The order will go into effect on Saturday at 7 a.m., the governor said. All essential business workers must also require their staff to wear face coverings and put into place appropriate social distancing measures in order to keep the customers and their own employees safe.

This includes when people are dealing with Uber, Lyft drivers or delivery workers, all of whom must wear a face covering when near a customer.
This comes just minutes after Baltimore Mayor Jack Young announced he signed an executive order advising Baltimore residents to wear face coverings out in public.

Other jurisdictions across the state have already made face masks mandatory, including Anne Arundel County, Prince George’s County and Montgomery County.

The governor said that according to early projections from Johns Hopkins, without the state taking the drastic actions they have already, the pandemic would infect nearly 360,000 in the state and potentially kill 12,000 Marylanders by June 1.

He said that at this point, the state’s hospitalization rates have started to show signs of stabilizing and they expect their testing capability to continue to ramp up, saying that they are on track to more than triple their current capacity to up to 10,000 tests a day.

“The state has recently secured an additional 40,000 tests, including 30,000 that will be utilized that will utilize the state’s new Abbott m 2000 testing machines,” He said.

These state tests will complement the testing that is happening in clinical facilities and private commercial labs across the state.

Maryland has also entered into a separate agreement with Abbott Labs to acquire a “substantial number” of antibody tests.

The governor said they are also ramping up their supply of PPE, headed by a multi-agency task force, and that they have received one million face shields and 1,000 ICU beds, and in the next week expect deliveries of 4.5 million additional N95 masks, 280 oxygen concentrators and 52 additional ICU ventilators.

In a move that was the first in the nation, there are now strike teams at 16 nursing homes and 15 group homes for medically fragile children.

And, in signs of what he’s calling cautious optimism, he said they are developing a roadmap for the reopening of the state- but clarified that wouldn’t necessarily be happening any time soon.

“Because if the recovery is not in a thoughtful and responsible way, it would not only cost lives, but it would deepen the economic crisis and actually prolong the problems and slow our economy,” Gov. Hogan said.

“There are some very real reasons for hope and optimism right now. And there is clearly a light at the end of this tunnel, but exactly how and when we will get to that light is going to be up to each and every one of us right now while our numbers are still climbing. And while we’re still heading up that curve. Instead of down. It is absolutely critical for Marylanders to stay at home to continue avoiding crowds and gatherings, and to aggressively practice, social distancing.” He added.

For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department’s website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ’s coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.