Prince George's County has been burdened with the highest number of coronavirus diagnoses of any area in Maryland, but leaders are on track to roll back restrictions on hair salons, barbershops, restaurants and some other businesses next week.
County Executive Angela Alsobrooks says that the county is still set to reduce restrictions and enter a modified phase one of reopening on Monday, including letting the stay-at-home order expire at 5 p.m.
"We are doing everything in our power to keep all of you safe. And because of your discipline and because of the decisions that we have made, I believe June 1 our county is ready to take the first step forward," Alsobrooks said.
Restaurants will be able to seat customers outside, as long as tables are 6 feet apart and sit no more than six people. No more than 50 people can be at any restaurant space at once. Hand sanitizers must be made available.
Hair salons and barbershops will also be allowed to open by appointment only, but customers and service providers must wear masks and other personal protective gear. There can only be one customer inside for every 200 square feet of space.
Houses of worship can open to 10 people or fewer; farmer's markets can open for carryout and childcare facilities can open for essential workers.
Nonessential businesses can begin offering curbside pickup. Manufacturing can resume, with protections for workers.
All businesses must require masks, enforce social distancing and follow CDC cleaning guidelines, Alsobrooks says.
Basketball courts and playgrounds will remain closed.
More residents are being diagnosed with the coronavirus each day, but the number of daily new infections appears to be slowing. Seventeen new cases were announced Tuesday, compared to more than 300 new cases reported the previous Tuesday.
"Prince George's County has the resources in place we need," Alsobrooks said. "We have not made this decision lightly."
Dr. Ernest L. Carter, the Prince George's County health officer, says that the country has increased contact tracing, testing, availability of personal protective equipment and hospital beds. Those were all critical criteria for reopening the county.
Hospital bed usage fell from around 80% to around 60%. The county has also secured more protective equipment, including 160,000 gowns from the state.
But the supply of protective equipment is still tight, and the country is still working to secure more masks and gloves, officials said.
"PPE will continue to be a critical operation for us and we will fight to make sure we have enough," Carter said. "We're not going too fast."
Between state, local and private providers, Prince George's will have the capcaity to carry out 9,000 coronavirus tests every week.
That will be aided by more coronavirus tests sites planned for this week and next month.
A new testing site will open Thursday at the Vehicle Emissions Inspection station at 7213 Old Alexandria Ferry Road in Clinton, Maryland. You need to call for a screening and to make an appointment before going.
Another free testing site will open Friday at Six Flags America in Upper Marlboro. Any resident who thinks they were exposed to COVID-19 can get a test with no out-of-pocket costs, officials say.
More sites will open on June 8 and 15, Alsobrooks said. She didn't detail where they would be located.
Prince George's reopening plan comes as Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan says the entire state is ready to fully begin phase one of reopening, which will allow for some more outdoor recreation and dining options.