Montgomery County

Montgomery County Tightens Coronavirus Restrictions

Montgomery County tightens capacity limits starting 5 p.m. Tuesday

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The Montgomery County Council has approved tightened coronavirus pandemic-related restrictions as cases and hospitalizations rise.

The rollback takes effect at 5 p.m. Tuesday, county officials said in a statement.

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“We have been watching the daily number of new cases go up for more than two weeks and it’s unfortunately time to roll back some of our reopening steps in order to decrease the spike we are seeing,” County Executive Marc Elrich said in a statement.

“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," Elrich continued.

Gatherings will be limited to no more than 25 people to slow transmission of the virus.

In another blow to local restaurants, indoor dining capacity will be limited to 25%. That comes after the county canceled the late-night alcohol sales program Friday, moving last call from midnight to 10 p.m.

With Thanksgiving fast approaching and coronavirus cases on the rise, many families are debating whether to gather for the holiday, or how to do it safely. No matter what you decide, NBCLX storyteller Clark Fouraker has some tips for talking to your family about your plans, without starting a fight.

Restaurants will be required to keep a list of all indoor and outdoor guests and their contact information for at least 30 days to help with contact tracing, officials say.

Capacity will also be limited to 25% at retail stores, gyms, museums, art galleries and religious facilities.

The same limit applies to bowling alleys and personal service providers such as salons and barbershops.

Child care facilities must continue to operate at Phase 2 levels currently in place.

These are among the most stringent restrictions in place around the D.C. area. For comparison, D.C. and Prince George's County allow indoor dining at 50% capacity.

Lawmakers eased two restrictions, allowing escape rooms to open to six people and exempting outdoor playgrounds from hourly cleaning requirements.

Montgomery County pulled waivers allowing restaurants to sell alcohol to midnight, limiting service to 10 p.m. News4's Jackie Bensen reports the move comes in response to an increase in COVID-19 cases.

One salon and spa owner, Tom Ruder, said the restrictions wouldn't increase safety and just end up punishing businesses that have been responsible in confronting the pandemic.

With an average of 17 new coronavirus cases per day and a positivity rate of 3.7%, council members say the decision, while difficult, is in the best interest of the county.

Before unanimously passing the executive order, council members urged more regional cooperation and leadership from Gov. Larry Hogan, who pushed counties like Montgomery to speed up their reopening.

Montgomery County Health Officer Travis Gayles said health officers from around the state have asked for guidance on closures.

Another council member said more cooperation and coordination is needed.

"We are not an island. We cannot do this all on our own. We have to have more collaboration with our partner jurisdictions," Montgomery County Council At-Large Member Hans Riemer said.

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