Montgomery County officials react to Maryland governor’s new virus restrictions

Leaders in Montgomery County, Maryland, were critical of Gov. Larry Hogan’s announcement on new efforts to control the COVID-19 surge in the state, noting additional measures should be taken to prevent the spread of the virus.

Hogan announced new restrictions Monday, including a 10 p.m. curfew for all bars and restaurants across the state and tightened capacity limits at retail outlets, religious facilities, barbershops and salons.

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich called for a more aggressive approach.

Elrich said, “The governor had strong words,” about the spread of the coronavirus, “but I don’t think the steps he took matched the urgency of his words.”

Elrich said that a growing number of jurisdictions — he didn’t say which — “have gone further and we need the state to help us send a clear message, through its actions, that we must take significant measures to slow the spread.”

During a briefing with Dr. Travis Gayles, the county’s health officer, several council members said there should be a statewide order calling for a shutdown and that there should be a regional agreement on such an action.

“If Maryland, Virginia and D.C. could act together with a stay-at-home order, it could be a shorter order,” said Council member Hans Riemer, meaning the pain of even a brief shutdown could have an impact.

Several council members asked Gayles whether a shutdown could help limit the spread of the coronavirus.

“I think from an epidemiologic standpoint, a shutdown of some time period could have significant benefit,” Gayles said. “We’re putting ourselves in a very difficult position without taking potential further restrictions if we want to get the number down.”

Dr. Earl Stoddard, the county’s director of the Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, told council members that shutdowns are “terrible to implement” but could help limit spread.

“There is no question — they hurt businesses,” Stoddard said. “They hurt the economy significantly, but they do work from a public health perspective.”

Council member Tom Hucker, a former Maryland state delegate, said that some counties, such as Montgomery, have instituted restrictions that are tighter than those in Hogan’s latest order. Montgomery County, for one, restricts gatherings to 25 or fewer people. Restaurants, retailers and other venues are ordered to keep patrons to 25% of capacity.

Like his colleagues on the council, Hucker said more statewide restrictions are needed.

“It’s very hard to fight this on a county-by-county basis,” Hucker said. “Nobody’s going to be happy about it, but we need to take really drastic action.”

Other state officials, meanwhile, considered the impact Hogan’s new order would have on local communities. Mike O’Halloran, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said in a statement, “This is a very sad day for Maryland small businesses.”

O’Halloran wrote that Hogan’s announcement would “be a very tough pill to swallow for so many of the state’s job creators” and said that many small businesses have had to “claw their way back from spring shutdowns and restrictions” only to face new requirements.

O’Halloran concluded his statement saying NFIB hopes that the measures taken by Hogan “won’t last long and Maryland’s small businesses can get back on their feet as soon as possible.”

Marshall Weston, president and chief executive officer of the Restaurant Association of Maryland, had a different take on the Hogan’s actions. In a statement, Weston wrote, “The Governor was clear in his message that the actions of late-night customers have largely led to the decision to close restaurants and bars at 10 p.m., not that of restaurants or their employees.”

Weston said the restaurant industry has been committed to providing safe dining and urged the public “to support your local restaurant by ordering prepared meals” during the coming Thanksgiving holiday.

More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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