Public confidence will be key to a successful reopening

Area businesses that have been closed since Covid-19 restrictions were put in place will face another problem once they are allowed to reopen: consumer confidence.

“When the doors open, you need somebody to walk through,” Mayor Jake Day said during his weekly meeting with other government leaders in the region.

Day and other officials hope to put together a reopening plan that will create a demand for services and bring customers back to stores and restaurants.

On Thursday, a group of roughly 20 business owners will brainstorm in a teleconference hosted by the Greater Salisbury Committee, the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce and Salisbury-Wicomico Economic Development.

The group will be asked for their suggestions and ideas on how to enhance a demand for services, said Mike Dunn, President and CEO of the Greater Salisbury Committee.

“We’re collectively dipping our toes in the water,” he said.

Ideas from the group will be passed along to local, state and federal partners, Dunn said.

The Chamber of Commerce has already hosted a meeting of restaurant owners, said President and CEO Bill Chambers.

Since there will likely be capacity limits placed on restaurants once they reopen, city and county officials will need to be flexible on allowing them to add or expand outdoor seating areas onto sidewalks and into parking lots, he said in an interview on PAC 14.

The city has already “cut the red tape” in allowing the owners of Evolution Craft Brewing to expand its outdoor seating area, Chambers said.

Post-pandemic business will be “a different world,” with lasting changes, including more emphasis on e-commerce, he said.

“Five years from now, despite the tragedy and death, we’re going to be a different society and I think in a better way,” Chambers said.

Gov. Larry Hogan has already eased some restrictions. Last week, he announced that some outdoor activities are allowed, including fishing, boating, golf, tennis and camping. Parks and beaches also are now open for walking and other exercise

The governor also allowed hospitals and licensed health care providers to resume elective and non-urgent medical procedures.

As of midweek, Hogan had not indicated when he might lift more restrictions, but he was scheduled to hold a news conference on Wednesday. Local officials expressed optimism that the governor would ease more restrictions.

Under the state’s Roadmap to Recovery, the governor said last week that more progress was needed in four areas before the rest of the Phase I of the reopening plan begins: increased testing, greater hospital surge capacity, provision of more personal protective equipment and building a robust contact tracing operation.

The next phase would allow the reopening of small shops and certain small businesses, allow curbside pickup and drop-off for businesses, limited attendance at outdoor religious gatherings, limited outdoor gym and fitness classes, outdoor work with appropriate distancing measures and some personal services.

If all goes well, the state would then shift to Phase 2 – considered medium risk – which would raise the cap on social gatherings, reopen gyms and fitness classes, reopen child-care centers, return transit schedules to normal, reopen indoor religious gatherings and reopen restaurants and bars with restrictions.

The final Phase 3 – or high risk – would allow larger social gatherings, high-capacity bars and restaurants, lessened restrictions on visits to nursing homes and hospitals, reopen entertainment venues and allow larger religious gatherings.

The numbers

The number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the region spiked after health officials got the results from the mass testing of 2,139 poultry workers and their family members on May 1 and 2 at Arthur W. Perdue Stadium.

Wicomico County’s confirmed cases of Coronavirus patients totaled 694 with 16 deaths as of Tuesday, state health officials reported. That compares to 500 cases and 11 deaths last week.

Additional Covid-19 cases have also been confirmed in Worcester County, which now reports 114 people as having the virus and three deaths. There were 81 cases in the county and two deaths last week

The patient count in Somerset is now 57, compared to 39 cases last week. No deaths have been reported in the county.

As of Tuesday, there were 865 cases in the three Lower Shore counties, which is 245 more than last week.

Dorchester County counts 102 cases with two deaths. There are 174 reported cases in Caroline County.

Statewide in Maryland, 34,061 cases have been confirmed, with 1,643 confirmed deaths and 113 probable deaths reported. The hospitalization totals of people with the virus stands at 1,563.

Across Maryland, 135,442 people have tested negative for the virus and 2,394 people have been released from isolation after testing positive.

Nationally, there are now more than 1.38 million cases with 81,751 deaths as of Tuesday.


Helpful Coronavirus links

Maryland Department of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage

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