Citing a leveling-off of hospitalizations due to coronavirus in Maryland, Governor Larry Hogan announced in a press conference today, May 6, that the state would update stay-at-home orders for the state effective tomorrow, Thursday, May 7, including allowing Marylanders to engage in such recreational outdoor activities as boating, fishing, tennis, and golf, while adhering to social distancing guidelines and not exceeding gatherings of 10 people. State parks and beaches will also reopen. “Twelve days ago I said that if the numbers continued to have these kinds of trends we’d be ready to move into Phase One and we’ve had a good trend for the last seven or eight days,” he said in a press conference.”
The original story, below, was published April 24.
Last week, the governors of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut lifted their states’ bans on recreational boating, which meant that “marinas, boatyards and marine manufacturers will be allowed to open for personal use as long as strict social distancing and sanitization protocols are followed.” Charters and rentals remain off limits, the statement added.
The announcement redirected a spotlight on Maryland’s recreational boating ban, which has garnered more than 15,000 signatures in opposition on a Change.org petition. The current prohibitions include both powerboats, sailboats, and personal watercraft (i.e. jet skis), but make exceptions for kayaks and paddle boats, which are considered exercise, and boating for the purpose of fishing for food. People can also travel by boat for essential purposes, may continue living aboard boats, and may travel by water between boat slips, homes, and marinas.
Earlier this week, the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis reported that Republicans in Maryland’s House of Delegates have urged Governor Hogan to lift the ban on recreational boating, and suggested it might be lifted soon. “I think the governor is on the same page and is going to announce some changes. I would hope we can get some boats out on the water soon. It’s good for health and well-being of our citizens,” Del. Nic Kipke reportedly told The Capital.
Opponents of the ban argue that particularly for boat owners whose boats are home on their private docks, boating with members of their own household seems like an extension of quarantine. But those concerned about lifting the ban too soon argue that adding traffic to marinas and gas docks increases exposure and that policing of waterways and emergency response and rescue puts emergency personnel at risk.
Marinas, boatyards, and marine manufacturers are considered “essential” in Maryland and have largely remained opened and operating, in some cases on a limited basis, per the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)’s definition of essential businesses as including those that “supply parts, or provide maintenance and repair services for transportation assets and infrastructure including… marine vessels.”
In Virginia, limitations on boating go only as far as to remind boaters to practice social distancing, including the urging of cancellations of fishing tournaments, where the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries says social distancing practices are difficult to maintain.