MoCo, D.C. Set to Join Rest of Region in Stage 2, as Va. Puts Brakes on Phase 3

By the beginning of next week, it is expected that the entire Washington region will be in some version of a second-phase reopening, though the recent rise in COVID-19 cases in the South and West has spurred Virginia to pause their previous plans to begin entering phase three.

Northern Virginia and Richmond joined the rest of the commonwealth in entering their version of a phase two re-opening, which allows a capacity-limited re-opening of gyms, entertainment venues, and other cultural exhibitions. The commonwealth has seen a drastic decline in the number of new COVID-19 cases in the past few weeks, even with the staged reopening; however, Gov. Ralph Northam said the recent upticks in cases in states with fewer restrictions on activities – including Arizona, Florida, and Texas – has spurred him to halt a migration towards phase three.

In Virginia, businesses like auto dealerships are allowed to operate indoor sales operations at 50 percent of their lowest patron capacity, while mandating that mask be worn by all. Indoor dining is allowed under similar parameters, as well. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s statewide stage two order has many of the same parameters; however, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties have delayed implementation of some aspects of the governor’s plan.

On Monday, over a week after much of Maryland entered stage two, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich announced that his county will enter a modified version of stage two under the county’s ReOpening Montgomery plan beginning this Friday. The plan largely mirrors many of the standards that went into effect in Prince George’s County this past Monday.

Effective Friday, Montgomery County businesses, including auto dealership salesrooms, will be able to have 1 patron for every 200 square feet of interior floor space; the same capacity limit is now currently in effect in Prince George’s County. Car washes, gyms, houses of worship, and childcare facilities will be among the other businesses that can expand operations in Montgomery beginning on Friday.

In the District of Columbia, Mayor Muriel Bowser said Wednesday that the city will likely enter their version of phase two next Monday, though it is not fully set in stone as of yet. According to the latest data, there have been 13 consecutive days of declining community spread in the District, but city health director LaQuandra Nesbitt said the District government would like to see continued improvement before officially proceeding into phase two.

Under phase two of the ReOpen DC plan, non-essential retailers will be able to resume indoor sales operations at the same capacity levels as Montgomery and Prince George’s — 1 patron for every 200 square feet of indoor space. Childcare services can resume, as can indoor dining, with a 50 percent patron capacity limit. Facemasks continue to be required in the District, as well.

The city will be providing additional guidance around phase two at coronavirus.dc.gov/phasetwo.

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