Hogan Exempts Schools from Local Health Orders Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Today, Governor Larry Hogan issued an Executive Order prohibiting “blanket school closures” in Maryland.

Hogan amended a prior emergency order that authorizes Local Health Officers to close any facility deemed unsafe according to community health metrics. Today’s order prohibits Local Health Officers from closing schools and instead grants public and private schools complete authority over the reopening of facilities for in-person instruction based on public health guidance.

Section 1.(e)(i) removes schools from the list of entities over which political subdivisions have been granted authorization to issue orders that are more restrictive than the governor’s orders. However, under the Maryland Department of Health order issued April 5, local health departments continue to have the authority to close any individual facility, including individual schools, deemed to be unsafe.

From Hogan’s press release:

“The recovery plan for Maryland public schools stresses local flexibility within the parameters set by state officials. Over the last several weeks, school boards and superintendents made their own decisions about how and when to reopen public schools, after consultation with state and local health officials.

“Private and parochial schools deserve the same opportunity and flexibility to make reopening decisions based on public health guidelines. The blanket closure mandate imposed by Montgomery County was overly broad and inconsistent with the powers intended to be delegated to the county health officer.

“To be clear, Maryland’s recovery continues to be based on a flexible, community-based approach that follows science, not politics. As long as schools develop safe and detailed plans that follow CDC and state guidelines, they should be empowered to do what’s best for their community.

This announcement comes after Montgomery County made the decision to close private schools for in-person instruction through October 1, 2020. Montgomery County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles said the order will be reevaluated before October 1 to determine whether it should be extended, terminated, or changed in any way.

Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more information.