Charles County weighs tougher COVID-19 restrictions amid rising infections

With worsening COVID-19 rates, the health officer for Charles County, Maryland, wants the county to impose public health restrictions that are tougher than those in effect statewide.

The coronavirus positivity rate in the southern Maryland county jumped to 7.13% on Wednesday, compared to the state’s positivity rate of 5.6%. The seven-day case rate has tripled in the county from 7 to 21.2 in the past 15 days according to Health Officer Dr. Dianna Abney.

“Over the last few days we’ve actually had the highest number of cases than we’ve ever had in Charles County, that 169, that was in one week,” Abney said.

Under state health restrictions, residents are advised to limit indoor gatherings to 25 people, but Abney asked a Wednesday emergency meeting of the Board of Charles County Commissioners to prohibit indoor gatherings of more than 25.

“What I suggest we do is that we mandate a limit on the size of indoor gatherings rather than making it just a suggestion,” Abney said.

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Abney told the board in some cases, depending on the indoor space, limits even smaller than 25 may be needed.

The health officer also recommended that outdoor gatherings of more than 100 be prohibited.

“For outdoor gatherings, we limit them at 100 persons, so that for social, community, recreational or leisure gatherings or events, that we limit it to no more than 100 people,” Abney told the board.

District 4 Commissioner Bobby Rucci reminded the board that under state guidelines, indoor religious services are limited to 75% capacity of the building, which in most cases would be a permissible number far higher than 25.

The board of commissioners agreed unanimously to put off a vote on the tighter restrictions until the regular meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 17.

In the meantime, the Charles County Sheriff and County State’s Attorney will be advised of the potential for the tougher public health restrictions in the county, so that they can prepare a plan for enforcement.

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