MARYLAND — It doesn't really feel like it, but Memorial Day weekend is here to kick off summer. Many Marylanders plan to observe the holiday at home instead of heading to the Eastern Shore or the mountains because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to an informal reader survey Patch conducted Wednesday.
Hotels, beaches and the boardwalk have all reopened for tourists in Ocean City. A ban on sport fishing and boating ended May 7, although no more than 10 people should be onboard. Boats need to keep 10 feet of space between them.
But Maryland residents say it's not yet time to venture out for vacations or larger gatherings.
Among 522 respondents, 92 percent said they plan to stay at home this weekend, while only 8 percent said they will travel.
"Give the hospital heroes a break. STAY HOME! We are stronger than the desire for a vacation," said one commenter. "Be your best self for your family and community."
The survey, which appeared in questionnaire form Wednesday and early Thursday on Patch, is meant not to be a scientific poll, but only to give a broad idea of public sentiment. And the mood seems to be cautious.
"Missing one year of celebration isn't the end of the world," said a respondent. "Might as well chill with burgers in the back yard this year rather than get sick and make matters worse."
Some residents said possible crowds at Ocean City's attractions could spread the coronavirus.
"I am very concerned that people are going to come back from Ocean City infected with Coronavirus and further spread the virus," a respondent said. "I seriously question why after doing such a great job with this our governor opened up the beaches for Memorial Day weekend. I will be watching the numbers closely a week after Memorial Day to see if they start going up sharply."
Gov. Larry Hogan lifted the stay-at-home order statewide May 15 as he enacted what he called a "safer at home public health advisory," which local jurisdictions could modify accordingly. Several jurisdictions — Charles, Montgomery and Prince George's counties, as well as Baltimore City — remain under stay-at-home orders.
Statewide, residents are still encouraged to stay at home when possible, continue social distancing and wear face coverings in public. Gatherings over 10 people remain banned.
Less than 12 percent of the survey participants said they are likely to visit the Eastern Shore, other Maryland destinations, or travel outside the state. Eighty-eight percent of the respondents said they have no travel plans.
Most state parks are now open for daytime activities, with the exception of Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park, which is closed, and parts of the Houck Area of Cunningham Falls State Park. Camping is available at some state parks. Playgrounds at state parks have been reopened, although parents are asked to talk to their children about to how to properly social distance while playing.
Maryland Patch readers say they are watching the toll coronavirus has taken and considering if later in the summer it might be safe to hit the road. But some people raised questions about the safety of air travel and staying in a hotel.
"Maybe later in the summer depending on how the cases are here and where I travel to," one commenter said.
With most events canceled, one survey participant said they'd forgotten this was a holiday weekend. And precautions like wearing a mask have many saying they'll do a staycation.
"Although I know they are necessary now, I absolutely hate wearing a mask. I will not spend my vacation time and money wearing one of those things," a commenter said. "I'll wait, as long as it takes, to take a 'normal' vacation. Maybe take two when that happens to make up for lost time."