The County Council, acting as the Board of Health, yesterday unanimously approved a regulation loosening many of the COVID–19 restrictions that were in place.
During the discussion, council members made it clear they felt pressured to do so after Gov. Larry Hogan surprised officials with a March 9 announcement that lifted many statewide COVID-19 restrictions as of 5 p.m. Friday, March 12. For example, restaurants and bars, retail businesses, religious facilities, fitness centers, casinos, personal services, and indoor recreational establishments would be allowed to operate at maximum capacity.
Highlights of the county regulation, which went into effect at 5 p.m. Friday, March 12, include:
- Outdoor gatherings increased to 50 people or less and indoor gatherings increased to 25 people or less
- 10 p.m. time limit for alcohol service eliminated
- Retail establishments and businesses, such as fitness centers and hair or nail salons, as well as museums and art galleries can operate at 25 percent capacity
- Houses of worship can operate at 50% capacity, and
- Sports played outside allowed with a maximum of 50 people and indoor sports allowed with a maximum of 25 people.
Capacity limits will increase on March 26 to 50% for retail establishments, personal service facilities, fitness centers, bowling alleys, escape rooms, museums, art galleries and pools, while theaters, social clubs and all admission and amusement venues can reopen at 25% capacity (without food concessions).
A joint statement from the council and County Executive Marc Elrich said, “In Montgomery County, we are implementing a phased approach to reopening that will allow our community to get our students and teachers back in the classroom safely, expand business opportunities and restore recreational and social activities in a way that doesn’t unduly jeopardize public health.”
Earlier in the week, Dr. Anthony Fauci briefed the council on the status of COVID–19, saying, “We are well-positioned to bring this historic pandemic under control if we all just hang on a bit longer. Now is the time for us to keep the foot on the accelerator with regard to adhering to public health measures such as masking, physical distancing and other measures that we know work.”
Montgomery County graphic