The Montgomery County Council has postponed a vote on new coronavirus restrictions until next week.
The county council was set to vote on new restrictions that would reduce capacity at restaurants, retail and other venues to 25%, and require restaurants to hold onto contact tracing information for 30 days. The new restrictions were set to go into effect Friday at 5 p.m.
The council decided to put off its vote on the county’s new order, citing the need to get more public input. A vote is now expected on Tuesday.
The amended executive order from County Executive Marc Elrich was proposed earlier this week as he cited concerns over the latest COVID-19 data.
“Everyone is seeing an increase in cases, and everyone’s seeing an increase in the rates,” Montgomery County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles told council members Thursday.
There were 226 new coronavirus cases reported Thursday in the county, which is the “highest that we’ve seen since the beginning of June when we were coming off our surge of cases,” Gayles said.
In addition, the seven-day average of new cases per 100,000 residents now stands at 14.8 — also the highest since June, and well over the county’s benchmark of 10 new cases per 100,000 resident, which denotes a high-risk of transmission based on CDC data.
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In deciding whether to move forward with the tightened restrictions, council members debated the impact on businesses and whether they would be put at a disadvantage compared to looser restrictions in neighboring jurisdictions in D.C., for example.
“These are extraordinarily difficult decisions, and we are undeniably stuck between a rock and a hard place,” said At-large Council member Gabe Albornoz.
Earl Stoddard, the director of the county’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, told council members there had been an attempt at a regional approach.
“The County Executive Elrich has been attempting to recruit other partners in this” — meaning the leaders of other jurisdictions in the D.C. area, Stoddard said. “And we got to the point where we’ve been holding back on this recommendation for weeks trying to recruit other people to jump off that proverbial ledge or move forward with this together.”
So far, neither D.C. nor Prince George’s County — where restrictions have generally been in line with Montgomery County — have announced plans to roll back capacity limits at restaurants or retail.
Stoddard didn’t provide specifics but suggested that could change. “I think our actions to, actually, go it alone have encouraged people to say, ‘We don’t want to be the one who didn’t do it at the same time,'” he said.
County liquor employee tests positive for COVID-19
A liquor store run by Montgomery County’s Alcohol Beverage Service has closed after an employee tested positive for COVID-19.
The Olney Liquor and Wine store on Georgia Avenue has been closed temporarily.
According to a news release from the county-run store, the employee’s most recent day at work was on Halloween.
Other store employees have been sent home with administrative pay through Nov. 15.
The Montgomery County Alcohol Beverage Service operates 26 stores across the county, and manages alcohol licensing and enforcement for more than 1,000 county businesses.