Prince George’s County, Maryland, is setting a new 50-person limit to gatherings that will go into effect Saturday amid an uptick in new coronavirus cases.
The new restriction starts 5 p.m. Saturday, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks announced Friday evening.
“What this is really aimed at is the family gatherings, the parties and those other large kinds of activities,” John Erzen, Alsobrooks’ deputy chief of staff, told WTOP.
“We are not afraid to take decisive action to protect the health and well-being of our residents; and at this point, the data tells us that this new restriction is unfortunately necessary,” Alsobrooks said in a statement.
The June executive order for the full Phase Two reopening allowed for “social, community, spiritual, religious, recreational, leisure and sporting gatherings and events” to have a maximum of 100 people or one person/family unit per 200 square feet, whichever was lower. The new restriction rolls back that limit.
The county said other capacity limits outlined in the order will stay the same for now.
“It does not effect anything that is outlined in other areas of the executive order,” Erzen said of the new restriction. “It doesn’t change the restrictions that we have in place for restaurants, retail businesses, indoor dining, churches and religious facilities — all of that will remain as it has been since we went to Phase Two.”
The new restriction comes a day after Alsobrooks shared concerns about parties in private houses during a county coronavirus response briefing. She said then that the house commonly known as the Broadwater Mansion was “shut down” after reports of multiple parties with hundreds of people over the last few months.
Alsobrooks and Health Officer Dr. Ernest Carter had pointed to younger adults, in their 20s and 30s, and people going to family gatherings and parties as key factors in the latest increases.
“Family gatherings and parties have been a major source of transmission over the past few weeks,” Alsobrooks said Thursday, adding that 67% of new infections have been traced to such gatherings.
Erzen highlighted that again on Friday: Based on contact tracing data, he said what’s driving the current upward trend is people attending large family gatherings and parties.
“By rolling it back from 100 to 50, what we’re really hoping to do is by reducing the number of people, hopefully reducing spread and transmission, and doing all we can to keep people safe,” he said.
Erzen added that it’s still important for residents to practice social distancing measures.
“Even though we’ve reduced the number to 50, it’s still very important to practice physical distancing and wearing a facial covering,” he said.
Also, Gov. Larry Hogan’s statewide expanded mask use order went into effect Friday at 5 p.m. That order requires face coverings or masks inside public buildings and at outdoor areas if it is not possible to maintain a safe physical distance of 6 feet between individuals.
WTOP’s Michelle Basch, Zeke Hartner and Rick Massimo contributed to this report.
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