Maryland’s Prince George’s County will begin Phase 1 of lifting COVID-19 safety restrictions on June 1.
County Executive Angela Alsobrooks referred to it as an “incremental opening” during a Thursday news conference, urging a need for caution. She also will lift the county’s stay-at-home order.
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“You heard me talk about the executive order that Gov. Hogan established, and that he laid out his road map to recovery,” Alsobrooks said. “And during that road map to recovery, he talked about four pillars: expanded testing, improved contact tracing, increased supply of personal protective equipment and hospital surge capacity.”
“I believe that we have taken really substantial steps toward being more ready now to open to begin some incremental and very cautious opening on June 1,” she said.
Like other area leaders, Alsobrooks called for residents to remain vigilant.
“The truth is … that the coronavirus will be with us for a while,” she said. “COVID-19 is still very present in our community. And so we should be mindful that we have to still be careful, cautious and vigilant. This is not yet over.”
“We are doing everything in our power to stop the spread of this virus in our community. We’re doing everything in our power to keep all of you safe.”
Alsobrooks added that the county has expanded its testing capabilities.
“We believe with the combination of state, local and private testing, we will now have the capacity to test up to 9,000 individuals at a bare minimum each week,” she said.
“We are also increasing our capacity for contact tracing. We currently have 50 contact tracers. But beginning next week … we’re doing some cross training of our county employees. We’ve also secured a number of contract employees, as well as volunteers, who will be doing the contact tracing, so that we are comfortable that by the end of next week, we will have the ability to have 150 contact tracers working to contact trace.”
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What Phase 1 means for Prince George’s businesses
Lifting the stay-at-home order means restaurants can reopen with outdoor dining, retail stores can utilize curbside pickup and manufacturing can resume.
Barbershops and salons can open by appointment only.
“In this new incremental and modified Phase 1, we will reopen retail stores with curbside pickup only,” Alsobrooks said. “This means you can order something online or by phone and go to the store to pick it up and that it should be brought to you, that item, by a store employee.”
“Manufacturing will also reopen with appropriate social distancing, use of PPE and following CDC guidelines on cleaning high contact surfaces, and all employees must be trained on CDC COVID-19 guidance before returning to work,” she said.
For restaurants, only outside seating is allowed, with a limit on six people per table, and tables six feet apart. In addition, no more than 50 people will be allowed at any outdoor restaurant establishment, regardless of space, Alsobrooks said.
Employees are required to receive health screenings before their shifts and all CDC guidelines must be adhered to. They must also wear face masks.
Alsobrooks said a guiding “concierge service” is being introduced because they “know that this whole process is very different, even for our business community.”
As for houses of worship, they can open for gatherings of 10 people or less, but otherwise must maintain their online services.
Child care facilities can also reopen for essential employees and for employees who are returning to work during Phase 1.
Carwashes can open with automated systems. But, “both drivers and passengers must stay inside of the vehicle at all times,” Alsobrooks said.
Prince George’s County parks will remain open, along with the golf courses and tennis courts.
Other recreation facilities will not, however. Basketball courts and playgrounds will not reopen. Neither will fitness facilities.
County government buildings will also remain closed and employees will continue to telework.
Prince George’s Forward Task Force
Alsobrooks announced the creation of a task force to help guide the county during the pandemic.
“We have assembled a group of experts in public health, business and government to create a nexus,” she said. “The task force will combine new data with expertise to provide well-reasoned recommendations on how our county should deal with this pandemic going forward.”
According to Alsobrooks, the task force will work on several broad recovery categories, including health, recovery, education, recovery, human and social services, recovery, economic recovery and government operations.
“We will work to recover from COVID-19 and to re-imagine how our county approaches each of these areas. In the end, the goal is not to get back to where we were, the goal is to go faster and farther for our residents than we ever have before,” she said.
Maryland to complete 1st stage of reopening Friday
Maryland is poised to move forward with the completion of Phase 1 of the state’s reopening plan on Friday, Gov. Larry Hogan announced. And, if these “encouraging downward trends continue into next week,” Hogan said the state will then be in a position to begin entering Phase Two.
“Now, after another 14 days of continued encouraging trends, Maryland is ready to take the additional steps to complete stage one of our gradual safe and effective recovery plan,” Hogan said.
Maryland coronavirus numbers
Prince George’s County has had the most coronavirus cases in Maryland, reported to be 14,508 as of Thursday.
Montgomery County has the second-most at 10,752.
Number of confirmed cases: 49,709 (1,286)
COVID-19-related and probable deaths: 2,428 (+32)
Currently hospitalized: 1,334 (-4)
Recoveries: 3,468 (+67)
Total number of tests: 274,858 (+12,803)