Restaurant association: Montgomery Co. ‘on an island’ by itself with indoor dining ban

An advocate for the food and hospitality industry in Maryland is turning up the heat on Montgomery County to loosen its grip on indoor dining restrictions.

The Restaurant Association of Maryland, or RAM, is calling out the county after Prince George’s County decided to join other jurisdictions by allowing for 25% indoor dining capacity. D.C. and Baltimore, also dropped their own bans last week.

Indoor dining in Montgomery County has been banned since Dec. 10.

“Montgomery County is now on an island all by themselves,” association president and CEO Marshall Weston told WTOP.

Weston cites falling COVID-19 metrics in Montgomery County, such as the positivity rate, which currently stands at 6.6%, according to RAM’s news release. The release also notes Prince George’s positivity rate is higher at 9.6%.

“When you’re really looking at all the metrics that Montgomery County claims to be watching, we see good news and good signs,” Weston said.

But Montgomery County’s COVID-19 dashboard does cite what it categorizes as “very high risk of transmission” data, such as the seven-day average number of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents.

As of Jan. 25, the number stood at 35.4.

Weston believes there are other better-looking county metrics, such as falling hospitalizations and that the number of cases has dropped “by double digits over the past two weeks.”

Montgomery County’s dashboard reported 460 new daily cases on Jan. 11, compared to 400 exactly two weeks later on Jan. 25.

Weston believes restaurants are not the problem with spreading COVID-19 but can be part of the solution.

“Because restaurants continue to offer a safe and regulated space for people to gather, and without a place to go such as restaurants, people continue to have parties and gather in their own homes, which we know with certainty is the No. 1 cause of COVID-19 spread,” Weston said.

Weston was asked about some general reasoning behind indoor dining bans for safety reasons and in the middle of new COVID-19 variants.

“These sound like reasons that come from people who are receiving a paycheck,” Weston said

WTOP has contacted Montgomery County for a response to the association’s report.

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.

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Ken Duffy

Ken Duffy is a reporter and anchor at WTOP with more than 20 years of experience. He has reported from major events like the 2016 Democratic and Republican National Conventions, 2016 Election Night at Trump Headquarters in Midtown Manhattan and the 2007 Super Bowl in Miami.

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