Montgomery County may be ready to gradually reopen within two weeks as coronavirus cases and deaths decline, the county executive says.
County officials point to improvements in the numbers of cases, deaths and hospitalizations on nine of the past 14 days. If these trends continue, the county could enter phase one of reopening soon, County Executive Marc Elrich said in an interview Wednesday.
“We should be able to accomplish this within the next week or two. I’ve always been reluctant to put out a date because the date becomes the story rather than the conditions in the county being the story,” he said.
The county saw a spike in cases Tuesday but leaders said it was an aberration. They saw a far lower number of new cases Wednesday.
County officials are looking for sustained trends, Health Officer Travis Gayles said.
“When we look over the last 14 days, nine of the last 14 days we have seen decreases in the number of cases overall,” he said.
The number of cases has decreased on nine of the past 14 days, though not consecutively. The number of deaths went down on eight days, and the number of emergency room visits went down on 10 days.
Clothing store owner Jackie Pletcher said she was relieved to hear she’ll be able to reopen soon.
“We’re delighted to see that there’s an endgame in sight. The survival of our business is based on reopening sooner rather than later,” she said.
Most parts of Maryland, with the exception of the counties just outside D.C., entered phase one of reopening on Friday. Under phase one, nonessential retail stores may reopen at up to 50% capacity, with curbside pickup and delivery strongly encouraged. Churches and houses of worship may start holding religious services at up to 50% capacity, with outdoor services strongly encouraged. Some personal services, including barbershops and hair salons, may open with up to 50% capacity and by appointment only.
Under phase one, restaurants still can only offer takeout and delivery service.
Elrich said on May 14 that Montgomery County needed to stay shut down to protect residents. He said his decisions would be driven by science.
The county executive said Wednesday that he’s conferring every day with the leaders of surrounding jurisdictions.
Stay with NBC Washington for more details on this developing story.