The Frederick County Board of Health passed new regulations regarding COVID-19 Thursday night amid dramatically rising numbers at both the state and county levels. However, what these new regulations mean has been somewhat unclear. Here are seven things you need to know before the regulations go into effect at 5 p.m. Friday:
1. You still need to wear your mask. The only thing that's changed is a new fine for not wearing one.
The new regulation brought some confusion regarding whether residents need to wear masks outdoors at all times. The new regulations state all people above the age of 5 must wear a face covering -- as per Gov. Larry Hogan's executive order -- in all indoor public spaces. It also states masks must be worn outside when a person cannot reasonably maintain six feet of distance from others who are not a member of your household.
Yes, you can still take your mask off at restaurants when eating or drinking. Yes, you can still take your mask off if everyone at your backyard bonfire are sitting 6 feet away. But you should wear a mask while walking in congested public areas, such as Market and Patrick streets in downtown Frederick.
You can now be fined for not wearing a face mask. First-time offenders can be fined $250, second-time offenders $375 and a third offense or any subsequent offense can bring a fine of $500.
2. Gyms are limited to 25 percent capacity and masks must be worn.
Gov. Larry Hogan (R) limited gyms to a 50 percent capacity back in June, but this new county regulation cuts that in half. Gyms have been named one of the most likely places for transmission to occur in a study by top scholars, in addition to restaurants and hotels.
3. Houses of worship are limited to 50 percent capacity.
Churches, synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship were previously increased to 75 capacity by Gov. Larry Hogan on Sept. 1, when he rolled out Stage Three.
4. Gatherings and events of more than 25 people are banned
Any gathering or event, including parties, parades, receptions, festivals, conventions and fundraisers are not to exceed 25 people. You can also receive a fine for violating this regulation.
5. Breweries, bars and event venues capped at 25 percent ONLY for events.
This one has led to confusion for many. Gov. Hogan's order capped restaurants and bars at 50 percent capacity. (More about restaurants below). But a line in the county regulations states that bars, wineries, breweries, distilleries, night clubs and event venues must not exceed 25 percent capacity or 25 people, whichever is less. That only permits to when those businesses have events. The county's attorney, Bryon Block, explained via text message: "B(1)(a) applies to events at those businesses. It isn't intended to prohibit normal day to day business for any of them."
6. Retail, service and restaurant capacities have not changed. Restaurants at 50 percent.
Retail establishments are still capped at 75 percent capacity, while service establishments (e.g. salons, barber shops) are capped at 50 percent capacity. Restaurants are still capped at 50 percent capacity as per Gov. Hogan's executive order.
7. More regulations might be coming soon.
The regulation stipulates that county Health Officer Dr. Barbara Brookmyer can further restrict these regulations if Frederick County's seven-day rolling case rate per 100,000 persons exceeds 20. For context, today's average is 18.88. That's a significant upward trend from Sunday's average of 14.15.
These additional regulations would include capping retail establishments at 50 percent, prohibiting gatherings of 10 or more people and restricting athletic activities.