Montgomery Tightens Capacity Limits Amid Statewide COVID Surge

The Montgomery County Council today approved County Executive Marc Elrich’s executive order to limit gatherings to 25 people or fewer and reduce capacity for restaurants and certain businesses from 50 percent to 25 percent.

The order — which went into effect at 5:00 pm Tuesday — comes as COVID-19 cases are surging across Maryland, with the state reporting seven consecutive days of at least 1,000 new cases.

“We have been watching the daily number of new cases go up for more than two weeks and unfortunately it’s time to roll back some of our reopening steps in order to decrease the spike we are seeing,” said County Executive Elrich.“ Like you, I am experiencing ‘COVID fatigue’ and want things to go back to normal, but we have to stay at this in order to protect the health of our community.”

With Maryland’s positivity rate exceeding 5 percent for the first time since June and health metrics spiking across the nation, Governor Larry Hogan today announced a statewide order to reduce indoor dining capacity from 75 percent to 50 percent. State health officials also issued a public health advisory strongly discouraging indoor gatherings of 25 people or more.

According to a Montgomery County press release:

The provisions of the new executive order include:

  • Gatherings of more than 25 people are prohibited at locations including parties, receptions, parades, festivals and fundraisers. Large events that are planned must be cancelled or postponed.
  • Capacity is reduced to a maximum of 25 percent for:
    • Fitness centers;
    • Food service establishments (indoors);
    • Museums and art galleries;
    • Retail establishments; and
    • Religious facilities.
  • Capacity is reduced to 25 percent or 25 people—whichever is lower—for bowling venues and for personal services establishments (including hair salons, barbershops, massage and nail salons).
  • Childcare programs must continue to operate at Phase 2 levels currently in effect for providers in Montgomery County.
  • Outdoor playgrounds are exempt from hourly cleaning requirements, as defined in the general operating requirements.
  • Escape room businesses may reopen at a capacity limit of six people.

Restaurants will now be required to maintain a record of all indoor and outdoor patrons, for at least 30 days, to assist with contact tracing. Information collected must include date, time, name of each patron and contact information.

The County’s late-night alcohol program was suspended as of 5 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 6. The program allowed qualifying food establishments to serve alcohol between 10 p.m. and midnight after a prior executive order prohibited serving alcohol after 10 p.m.

When the late-night alcohol program began, provisions stipulated that it would automatically be suspended if the three-day average of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the county exceeded 100 or if the three-day test positivity average exceeded 3.25 percent. The latest three-day average for new confirmed cases is 183 and test positivity is 4.4 percent.

For the latest COVID-19 County updates, visit the County’s website and follow Montgomery County on Facebook @MontgomeryCountyInfo and Twitter @MontgomeryCountyMD.

Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more information.