A Maryland judge granted a temporary restraining order prohibiting an executive order restricting in-person dining that was supposed to go into effect at 5 p.m. Wednesday in Anne Arundel County.
Stacie MacDonald, a Republican candidate for Maryland’s House of Delegates in 2022, said an attorney for four restaurants filed the request Tuesday in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court, The Capital Gazette reported.
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Anne Arundel County’s restrictions would halt indoor and outdoor dining for a month to curb the spread of COVID-19. County Executive Steuart Pittman has said there would also be reduced capacity in gyms, casinos, salons and other stores.
The restaurant owners are argued Pittman does not have authority to close restaurants and said there is no evidence closing eateries will have an effect on the virus's spread.
"We believe the science from public health experts is clear and it shows that taking actions to limit situations where people gather without masks will prevent the spread of this virus and ultimately save lives," Pittman said in a statement after the judge's ruling. "We look forward to a full hearing on the merits of the case and in the meantime are discussing other options to protect the health of our residents by limiting community spread and flattening the ongoing COVID surge in our county."
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The coronavirus spreads through droplets that are emitted when people talk, laugh, sing, cough or sneeze. Indoor spaces are more risky than outdoor spaces because it might be harder to keep people apart and there’s less ventilation, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Chris Trumbauer, the county’s director of policy and communications, told the newspaper the county was ready to defend the challenge. “We feel confident that the county has the authority to do this,” he said.
Officials had placed similar restrictions on restaurants and other businesses in the spring, but with the spike in coronavirus cases, Pittman said hospitals could be overwhelmed if new restrictions are not imposed. If the number of patients admitted to county and state hospitals drops during the next month, the restrictions would be rolled back.
The Maryland Restaurant Association filed an affidavit in support of the business owners, MacDonald said in a statement.
A hearing will be held Dec. 28 to decide if the county executive has the power to order restaurants to close.
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