People on the boardwalk in Ocean City will be required to wear masks in public to stem the rise in COVID-19 diagnosis. (Courtesy photo/delmarvanow.com)
People on the boardwalk in Ocean City will be required to wear masks in public to stem the rise in COVID-19 diagnosis. (Courtesy photo/delmarvanow.com)

Whether it is a backyard BBQ or an outdoor concert, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser are admonishing people for hosting unauthorized gatherings that have led to an increase in the spread of the coronavirus.

Alsobrooks said people who host gatherings of 100 people or more face a $5,000 fine and up to one year in jail.

Alsobrooks’ threats came at the end of a month in which county health officials saw an increase in COVID-19 cases and less than 100 days before the Nov. 3 presidential election, amid national concern that the dangerous virus could lead to a massive decrease in people going to the polls.

“There’s one in every crowd,” Alsobrooks said during a press conference Thursday, July 30. “Some who are trying to circumvent the order by holding large house parties with hundreds of people in attendance and these parties are unsafe.”

According to data from the Prince George’s County Health Department, during the week of July 4, the county reported 581 positive cases. But between July 12-18, the number of positive cases increased to 909.

County Health Director Ernest Carter said that data shows that residents younger than 50 make up slightly more than 65% of the total confirmed cases, while people over 50 make up 90% of the virus-related deaths.

Alsobrooks and Carter say it is critical that county residents need to keep up social distancing and other protective actions and that it’s too early to suggest a rollback on any reopening measures.

“This is evident that physical distancing and other protective measures, both in the county and nationwide, have not been as robust as we should have had them,” Carter said.

Bowser also addressed a large gathering of people gathering for a concert at Oxon Run Park in Southeast, where few people were seen wearing face masks. Even though city police flashed their lights to remind people of social distancing, community leaders say many people continued to violate distancing laws, which Bowser said is unacceptable.

“Our communities have to take some responsibility, including ANC commissioners, in saying this behavior is anti-public health and anti- us getting back on our feet, and we have to bond together to put an end to it,” Bowser said at a news conference Wednesday morning.

In some good news, Gov. Larry Hogan announced that all 24 of Maryland’s jurisdictions have met the goal of testing 10% of their populations, as the state’s COVID-19 positivity rate has dropped to 4.47%. Hogan said this represented another milestone for the state’s long-term testing strategy.

“Our aggressive statewide testing strategy is helping us to understand, identify and stop the spread of this virus, and I want to commend all of our local jurisdictions for stepping up to meet our goal of testing 10% of their populations,” Hogan said in a statement. “The state of Maryland continues to make unlimited quantities of tests available to any jurisdiction that needs them.”

While outdoor activity and gatherings have been largely restricted during the pandemic, Ken Roberts, 58, a resident of Ellicott City, said, “I am just maintaining.”

“Every day I try to encourage people and send out text messages since I have retired,” he said. “I thank God that I don’t have any financial issues. And on Friday, we had a small dinner for about eight people and we had a good time and great fellowship.”

Hamil R. Harris

Hamil Harris is an award-winning journalist who worked at the Washington Post from 1992 to 2016. During his tenure he wrote hundreds of stories about the people, government and faith communities in the...

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