It’s official: Montgomery Co. tightens health restrictions

It’s official: The Montgomery County Council has approved new measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus, including suspending indoor dining and cutting capacity limits at retail stores.

They take effect at 5 p.m. Thursday.

County Executive Marc Elrich proposed the new restrictions last week. Final signoff was required by the County Council, which unanimously approved them Tuesday afternoon.

The new rules restrict restaurants to outdoor dining, carryout, delivery and drive-thru only. Under a previous order from Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, late-night dining is prohibited between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

In addition, indoor sports gatherings are limited to 10 people, and the capacity for retail stores is being cut to one person per 200 square feet of retail space — with a hard cap of 150 people.

Large stores can potentially have more than 150 people inside but first must submit a request to the county, and the exceptions would only be allowed after Dec. 23.

Religious institutions remain capped at 25% capacity with special approval needed to host more than 25 participants outdoors. Previously, approval was needed to host outdoor services of more than 150 people.

County officials said the tightened restrictions were necessary to reduce the spread of the virus to levels that would eventually allow students to return to classrooms.

Earl Stoddard, the director of the county’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, said the restrictions “are the best and only real chance we have of having kids in school in February.”

Montgomery County’s new rules are similar to tightened restrictions put in place in Prince George’s County. Indoor dining there will be suspended starting at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Officials across the D.C. region have recently toughened restrictions in the face of surging coronavirus cases.

Jack Moore

Jack Moore joined WTOP.com as a digital writer/editor in July 2016. Previous to his current role, he covered federal government management and technology as the news editor at Nextgov.com, part of Government Executive Media Group.

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