Montgomery County and Prince George’s County will remain in coronavirus reopening phase one as other parts of Maryland advance to phase two, their county executives say.
The two counties outside D.C., which have been hardest hit by the virus, entered phase one on Monday. It’s not safe yet to reopen more businesses, the leaders said Wednesday night.
“After just beginning an incremental phase one this past Monday, Prince George’s is not yet ready to move to phase two. Our medical professionals need more time to track the data and ensure our trends continue to decline. We will rely on science and data to determine when it is safe to move to phase two,” County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said in a statement.
Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich released similar information, saying “We must be prudent in our decisions.”
“Montgomery County has the state’s second highest number of cases, that is why we will continue to follow the data and science to ensure that our residents, visitors, and businesses are safe and we slow the spread of COVID-19 in our County and the region,” he said on Twitter late Wednesday.
Charles County and Frederick County will move to phase two, leaders said Thursday.
Maryland can move to phase two starting Friday at 5 p.m., Gov. Larry Hogan announced at a news conference Wednesday afternoon. Local officials have flexibility to follow the state’s reopening plan or maintain stricter limits on businesses.
Nonessential businesses will be able to reopen. Personal services such as nail salons and tanning salons can reopen with 50% capacity and by appointment only.
Everyone still must wear masks in indoor public areas and continue to practice social distancing.
An expanded list of non-essential businesses, including offices, retail, warehouses, auto dealerships, financial institutions, construction businesses and tech firms will be able to reopen. The continued use of masks, screens, hand washing, staggering shifts and social distancing are encouraged.
“Just because Marylanders can return to the office, doesn’t mean they should. And employees who can telework should continue to teleworking whenever possible,” Hogan said.
Starting Monday, June 8, state government will begin returning to normal operations, with phased reopenings and safety precautions in place.
Transit schedules and childcare services will also begin to gradually expand over the coming weeks.
The decision to move to phase two comes as coronavirus metrics show signs of leveling.
Maryland’s coronavirus positivity rate is now at 9.5%, down nearly 65% since its peak of 26.2% on April 17.
As of Wednesday, Maryland has been below the 15% positivity mark for 14 straight days. The number of patients in intensive care has continued to plateau, reaching its lowest level since April 17.
Hogan announced the opening of a new testing lab, in partnership with the University of Maryland Baltimore School of Medicine’s Institute for Genome Sciences. The lab is operational and processing tests ahead of schedule.
Demand for COVID-19 tests is expected to spike because of an expected second wave of infections and the eventual onset of the flu season.
Hogan encouraged all those who are protesting racial injustice and the killing of George Floyd to take advantage of the free coronavirus testing Maryland offers, and to be mindful of safety when interacting with elderly or other at-risk family members.