Officials in Montgomery County, Maryland, say 60% of the county’s residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, triggering a further easing of coronavirus restrictions.
The second phase of reopening allows most businesses, including restaurants, theaters and religious facilities, to expand to 75% capacity and expands indoor gathering limits to 250 people. Going forward, there will be no capacity limits on outdoor gatherings.
The easing of restrictions in Maryland’s most populous county comes after Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan last week did away with most statewide capacity limits on businesses and later, after revised mask guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lifted a mask requirement.
Montgomery County has moved more cautiously than the state in easing coronavirus restrictions and, last month, put in place a reopening plan tied to the county’s vaccination rate.
Montgomery was already among the swiftest in the state at administering shots. Just last weekend, the county administered 15,000 shots. Of those, 9,000 were newly eligibly 12-to-15-year-olds, officials said Monday.
“I’m grateful to all our residents who have allowed us to follow the science and put up with inconveniences to put public health first,” Council President Tom Hucker said
The third phase of reopening — when all capacity limits will lift and businesses can resume normal operations in line with the state’s posture — is set for May 28. That’s two weeks after the county reached the milestone of 50% of its residents being fully vaccinated.
Still up in the air, however, is how long county residents have to continue to wear face coverings when they leave home.
Last week, the CDC issued new guidance saying fully vaccinated people no longer needed to wear masks, even in indoor settings. Following that, Hogan announced he was ending the state’s mask mandate.
The county council is set to vote on new rules Tuesday, including lifting the outdoor mask mandate. The council will also hear a resolution proposing that those who are fully vaccinated would no longer need to wear masks indoors, except where the state health department requires it.
Unvaccinated residents will still need to wear a mask in indoor public spaces until May 28, when the order will be rescinded.
New rules that are set to go in effect with the new vaccination numbers:
- Gathering limits indoors are expanded to 250 people. There are no more limits on outdoor gatherings.
- Theaters and restaurants and religious facilities can expand to 75% capacity.
- Sports can increase capacity for participants and spectators to 250 people indoors and no limit outdoors.
- Camps would also be able to increase their gathering limits and could have campers from outside the D.C. area.
- Convention and banquet facilities would be limited to 50% capacity.
- Cigar and hookah bars may permit smoking outdoors.
- Sign up for WTOP alerts
- Latest coronavirus test results in DC, Maryland and Virginia
- Coronavirus vaccine FAQ: What you need to know
- Latest vaccination numbers in DC, Maryland and Virginia