MoCo Lowers Capacity Limits for Retailers; Other Counties Likely to Follow

On Tuesday, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich issued an order that lowers capacity limits for businesses, restaurants, and retail establishments back to 25 percent of their published capacity, or 1 customer per 200 square feet of “in-store space,” whichever is lower.

Executive Order 122-20 took effect at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, and other counties in the region seem likely to follow in response to a spike in coronavirus cases that exceeds even those back in the early spring.

County Executive Elrich’s 25-percent/1-per-200-square-foot order covers retail establishments, religious facilities, gyms, indoor dining, and museums, and also prohibits private gatherings of more than 25 people, and “personal services establishments” must also adhere to the 25 percent or 25 person limit, whichever is lower.

Alcohol sales will also be prohibited after 10 p.m. in the county, and restaurants will be required to keep a record of all indoor and outdoor patrons, in order to assist with contact tracing.

On Tuesday afternoon, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said that the state has “crossed over into the danger zone,” citing widespread “COVID fatigue.” Gov. Hogan issued an executive order that lowers indoor dining capacity limits in “stage three” counties from 75 percent to 50 percent, while promising stronger enforcement of the requirement that only seated patrons be served.

The state Department of Health issued an advisory “strongly advising” against indoor gatherings of 25 people or more, though it does not contain the same enforcement mechanisms of County Executive Elrich’s order. The governor did stress that there might be additional needs for further restrictions, depending on the rate of COVID-19 cases in the state over the coming weeks. He has already extended the state’s mask order, and encouraged employers to “make every effort” to allow employees to telework when at all possible.

Gov. Hogan and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser have each issued travel advisories; Gov. Hogan’s advisory recommends against all non-essential travel to states with more than a 10 percent positivity rate. The state “strongly suggests” getting tested before and after any essential travel out of state. In D.C., Mayor Bowser’s travel advisory requires all out-of-region travelers, as well as vistors of more than three days, to get tested 3 to 5 days after arriving/returning to D.C., or to quarantine for 14 days.

Also, Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman said that additional restrictions on social gatherings were likely to be “significantly” restricted later this week. He told the Capital Gazette in Annapolis that he is wary of reimposing restrictions or closures on businesses at this time, but added that he thought the governor’s orders on Tuesday were insufficient. Pittman and Elrich were two of the five county executives, plus Baltimore mayor Jack Young, who sent Hogan a letter last Friday urging the governor to reimpose additional restrictions, in order to stem the rise in COVID cases.

Please note that D.C., Maryland, and Virginia have all launched COVID exposure tracking and alert systems. We recommend you add D.C. and Maryland’s alerts by following the steps outlined at this link. You can download the Virginia COVIDWISE app on iPhones and Androids.

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