Maryland’s two biggest counties, Prince George’s and Montgomery, will not reopen Friday evening as most of the state moves into the next phase of gradually opening up during the coronavirus pandemic.
Prince George’s had some of the highest infection, hospitalization and death rates in the state could begin a modified Phase Two reopening on June 15.
Prince George’s County will make that determination based on some coronavirus metrics, namely positivity rates, declines in deaths, hospitalizations and medical/surgical bed utilization.
Outdoor recreations, retail stories, restaurants and religious institutions would be allowed to reopen in Prince George’s under that modified plan.
“We are encouraged by the trends we are seeing in our data since announcing our modified phase one reopening, but we must remain vigilant,” said Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, in a news release.
“All of our indicators tell us that COVID-19 is still active in our community, and while I am eager to continue reopening our county, we must do so in a safe, smart and responsible manner that is data driven. If we continue to see the declines we are currently experiencing, we could move to a modified phase two by June 15,” Alsobrooks said.
REOPENING PLANS AROUND THE REGION:
Montgomery County will remain Phase One and will not see non-essential businesses reopen on Friday.
“For the time being, we remain where we are,” said Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich.
Elrich issued a warning to businesses, saying that progress on reopening could potentially be halted or even reversed.
“We have to remain vigilant and aware that if cases start to tick up as a result of opening, we’re going to need to resume more restrictions,” he said.
During a public telephone meeting Thursday evening, Elrich said the county will make decisions on what it will take to proceed to the second and third phases and will release that information to the business community “in the coming days.”
Elrich said that Montgomery County has made strong advancements in local testing and contact tracing. But he also said that hospital capacity is a concern, as there are days when hospitals in the county have just 14 intensive care unit beds available.
Montgomery County is working to stockpile gloves, masks and gowns so hospitals are prepared if the numbers start to spike, Elrich said.
With Maryland’s positivity rate for COVID-19 dropping to single digits, Gov. Larry Hogan announced that most of Maryland would begin Phase Two of reopening at 5 p.m. Friday. That will enable large and small retail shops to reopen, as well as wholesalers and warehouses.
Offices, including information technology firms, legal offices, banking and financial institutions, can open as well. Hogan said personal services such as nail salons and tanning salons can reopen with 50% capacity and by appointment only.
The governor emphasized that just because people will be allowed to return to work doesn’t mean they necessarily should. Hogan said people who can work from home should continue to do so.
“No worker wants to give this virus to his or her coworkers, and no employer wants an outbreak at his or her workplaces,” Hogan said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.