Montgomery County still holds off on Phase Three, awaits July Fourth impact

Though Montgomery County, Maryland, is seeing a decline in key COVID-19 health metrics, it will hold off entering Phase Three of the reopening plan until officials can be sure there won’t be a spike linked to July Fourth celebrations.

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said Wednesday that he was proud of the efforts made in his county and neighboring Prince George’s County and D.C. so far that have kept the area’s numbers declining, even as parts of the U.S. struggle with a surge of new coronavirus cases.

As businesses reopen across the county, Elrich said they don’t have to worry about being shut back down as long as they follow the health guidelines put forward by the county.

“We’ve reached over 2,000 businesses to educate them about the requirements for reopening,” Elrich said. “We’ve checked our checklist to be sure they understand what they need to do — the overwhelming majority of businesses follow the guidelines.”

“We’ve had some that we’ve had to talk to … We can’t afford to let some few number of businesses who don’t want to follow the guidelines jeopardize everybody else’s ability to stay open, which depends on our ability to control the spread of COVID-19,” he added.

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Elrich and county Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles said that the county’s plans for Phase Three would likely not be unveiled for at least another week, as data is analyzed to ensure the area does not see a spike of cases from the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

Another issue that Elrich sees approaching in the county is a spike of evictions as Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s moratorium that protected against eviction is set to expire soon. If that happens, Elrich said that tens of thousands of households in the county could face eviction.

Elrich said he would like to see landlords work with tenants to create payment plans with those who have lost their income amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It will be a major, major issue if we get that level of displacement in the county,” Elrich said.

On the topic of the Fourth of July, Elrich said the county was putting together a local TV broadcast that would feature local musicians and a televised fireworks display.

“I’ve told people to turn up the volume on their TV so you can fully enjoy the fireworks — they’re meant to be enjoyed loudly, I believe,” Elrich said. “I also remind people that fireworks are dangerous, and fireworks are not allowed in Montgomery County or the state of Maryland.”

Elrich also advised people hoping to gather with friends to celebrate during the weekend to try to do so outside if possible, and maintain social distancing measures and mask use.

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