Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsbrooks speaks during a May 14 press conference to announce the extension of the countywide stay-at-home order through June 1 amid the coronavirus pandemic as Ernest Carter, the county's chief health officer, listens. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)
Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsbrooks speaks during a May 14 press conference to announce the extension of the countywide stay-at-home order through June 1 amid the coronavirus pandemic as Ernest Carter, the county's chief health officer, listens. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

One day after Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan lifted a stay-at-home order and allowed some businesses to reopen amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, leaders in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties announced Thursday their respective jurisdictions aren’t ready to join the rest of the state.

County executives and health officers from both jurisdictions laid out the benchmarks that would need to be met before attempting to reopen, including a two-week decline in coronavirus cases and deaths, adequate daily testing of residents, and an increase in testing kits, personal protective equipment and other materials.

Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said the stay-at-home order in the majority-Black jurisdiction will remain in effect through June 1. Prince George’s leads the state in confirmed cases at 10,857, and about 3,600 of them are Blacks, according to county data.

Before she announced the order, Alsobrooks offered condolences to the family of an employee in the county health department who died this week after contracting COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

“We are very much still in the thick of this virus,” she said during a press conference at the county’s Emergency Operations Center in Landover. “We are averaging nine deaths from COVID-19 per day. We are taking advice from our public health officials. This has quickly become, in the two months plus we have experienced [the virus], the leading cause of death in Prince George’s County.”

Less than 15 minutes after Alsobrooks’ announcement, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said he would also refrain from reopening businesses.

“I would like to go to a restaurant and sit down. I would like to go to a movie. There are lots of things I would like to do, but I wouldn’t put what I like to do above the welfare of the people in this county,” he said. “The sooner we knock these numbers down, the sooner we get back to normal.”

As of 10 a.m. Thursday, more than 18,000 of the state’s 35,903 confirmed novel coronavirus cases are registered in those two locales in the D.C. suburbs.

Hogan lifted the stay-at-home order Wednesday to allow businesses such as barbershops, salons, churches and retail stores to reopen by 5 p.m. Friday. However, they can only operate at 50 percent capacity under the new “Safer at Home” advisory. The state still recommends for people to wear masks and maintain social distancing measures.

Faith leaders are encouraged to hold services outdoors versus inside a sanctuary. One of the stage one recommendations would be to shorten services to accommodate more during the day and take into consideration of small children.

In other Maryland jurisdictions, Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. Jack Young and Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski wrote a joint statement Wednesday saying they will decide soon on their future plans to reopen.

Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman announced late Thursday afternoon that the county will follow Hogan’s order and allow some businesses to reopen at 5 p.m. Friday.
“We have likely saved thousands of lives through the sacrifices we have made in recent weeks,” Pittman said in a statement. “I am loosening only the restrictions that should have no significant impact on the spread of this virus. We cannot afford a second spike in new cases.”

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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