Gov. Hogan’s plan offers hope to resume live racing in Maryland

Posted: April 29, 2020

The “Maryland Strong: Roadmap to Recovery” plan released April 24 by Gov. Larry Hogan outlines four building blocks and coronavirus (COVID-19) benchmarks that must be met before a three-stage reopening of businesses and restart of activities can begin, and the governor indicated he’s hopeful that can occur in early May.

The building blocks are procuring a sufficient amount of personal protective equipment for frontline healthcare workers, generating hospital surge capacity, having adequate testing capacity and having a robust contact-tracing program, according to the 30-page document. The building blocks work in conjunction with guidelines from the White House Coronavirus Task Force that state a 14-day downward trajectory of the metrics, or at least a plateauing, is required before recovery can move forward.

The key metrics in Maryland, Hogan said, are the rate of hospitalization and the number of patients admitted to intensive care units.

“We hope to begin the recovery in early May,” Hogan said April 24. “I’m hopeful because we’re starting to see it plateauing—but we’re not where we need to be yet. I’m hopeful in saying early May and I’m going to press to do that. Each of these recovery stages need to be initiated in a safe, effective manner.”

The order of the recovery stages are low-, medium- and high-risk activities. Racing industry leaders believe live racing under COVID-19-specific health and safety protocol and with only essential personnel permitted access is very likely to be included in the low-risk stage.

Laurel Park in mid-March offered three racing programs under those conditions, and more recently the MTHA, MJC and MedStar Health have added protocols to a plan that will be submitted to the Hogan administration. As the plan progresses, the restrictions for racing operations would be modified accordingly.

The Maryland Department of Commerce, at Hogan’s direction, formed 13 advisory groups—including one for sports—and requested that every industry and business “consider the economic, medical and societal factors surrounding reopening.” Kelly Schulz, Secretary of the Department of Commerce, oversaw the Maryland Racing Commission in her previous post as Secretary of the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation and has continued advocating for the industry in her current cabinet position.

The Roadmap to Recovery plan notes that decisions on which low-risk activities can resume “will not be announced in whole as one package but rather as a phased rollout over a period of time” based upon White House protocols. The plan states that decisions are being made with the input of business and medical leaders, and that first stage will focus on the “broad category” of “quality of life” improvements.

The stay-at-home executive order will transition to voluntary “safer-at-home” guidance in the first stage. Directives on physical distancing and the wearing of masks or other face coverings will remain in place when the recovery begins.

“It is important for Marylanders to realize that these lists (of businesses and activities in each stage) are non-exclusive and subject to change depending upon COVID conditions in the state,” the plan says.

Regarding the daily metrics such as hospitalizations and ICU beds in use, Hogan noted that “three days does not make a trend,” and that a one-day increase in the metrics, for example, would not restart the clock on the 14 days recommended by the federal task force.

The racing industry is optimistic that, subject to appropriate safeguards, racing will be permitted to resume soon. Accordingly, it is advised to take the appropriate steps to plan for a possible mid-May resumption of live racing. Once again, there is no guarantee, but you should be ready to run should it occur.

The “Maryland Strong: Roadmap to Recovery” plan is available here.