As the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect Prince George’s County, restrictions went into effect Wednesday that will suspend indoor dining and limit the number of people at retail businesses, fitness centers and the MGM casino at National Harbor.
The capacity at those venues decreased from 50 percent to 25 percent while outdoor dining will remain at 50 percent capacity. Restaurants can still provide take-out orders and curbside delivery service. The new restrictions remain in force through Jan. 16.
As of Sunday, Dec. 13, Prince George’s continues to record the highest number of confirmed cases in the state of Maryland with 47,800. During the week of Nov. 29 to Dec. 5, the county reported its highest number of cases at 3,219. Carter said about 26 people died – the highest weekly total since early June.
An average of nearly 40,000 COVID-19 tests have been conducted per week, said Dr. Ernest Carter, chief health officer for the county.
“A lot more have to be tested,” he said while briefing County Council during a special virtual session Tuesday, Dec. 15. “If we don’t continue to test at a high rate, we won’t be able to determine how effective we are in decreasing the spread [of COVID-19].”
He presented several alarming statistics, including that the county has almost reached an average of 50 per 100,000 people contracting COVID-19 each day.
In addition, about 58 percent of beds in the intensive care units remain occupied by coronavirus patients.
“The community spread is really active and is not going down,” he said, adding that COVID-19 has become the county’s third leading cause of death this year behind heart disease and cancer.
“That’s alarming,” he said.
County Executive Angela Alsobrooks first announced the county restrictions last week in hopes to decrease non-essential trips and those visiting family outside of a person’s home, especially before the Christmas holiday.
She also had a message for those wearing masks and face coverings incorrectly: “If you wear a mask that is below your nose, you don’t have on a mask. That’s the reality.”
Officials in the Baltimore and D.C. areas also announced similar restrictions.
Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, who began his first day in office Dec. 9, announced tighter restrictions to close indoor and outdoor dining in the city which went into effect two days later.
The order also includes 25 percent capacity in retail stores, houses of worships, gyms, malls and the Maryland Zoo.
Anne Arundel County banned indoor dining and decreased capacity at retail stores, gyms and casinos following Prince George’s but are scheduled to end Jan. 13.
Montgomery County Council voted unanimously Tuesday to ban indoor dining based on an executive order recommended last week by County Executive Marc Elrich. Restaurants and other establishments that sell food may continue to provide drive-thru and carryout services.
“These are tough decisions but we have to make them for public safety,” said Councilman Will Jawando (D-At Large).
During the council meeting, Del. Eric Luedtke (D-Montgomery Council) released a statement that he plans to introduce proposed emergency state legislation to exempt county restaurants and bars from paying alcohol license fees this year. His bill also seeks to reduce the fees paid by business with licenses to sell alcohol both on- and off-premises by half with the option of the county to retroactively reimburse half of the fees paid for 2020-21.
“Thousands of Montgomery County restaurants and bars and the workers who staff them are struggling to make ends meet right now,” he said. “This industry needs our help and reducing alcohol license fees is one small way to help them make it through COVID-19,” he said.