County Executive Jan Gardner announced additional restrictions on indoor gatherings and indoor recreation capacity on Thursday, but she stopped short of further actions with restaurants, bars, retail stores and other businesses.
Indoor gatherings should be limited to 15 people. Indoor capacity at recreation facilities — like bowling allies, bingo halls, pool halls, roller and ice skating rinks and social and fraternal clubs — drops to 25 percent but only if current restrictions (50 percent capacity) allow for more than 50 people inside those areas.
Gardner (D) announced those changes as other jurisdictions like the City of Baltimore, Montgomery County and Anne Arundel County have proposed or enacted greater restrictions during the latest surge of the coronavirus pandemic.
The indoor recreation restrictions take effect at 5 p.m. Friday, per an executive order.
Gardner said most of the “I-95 corridor” jurisdictions—Montgomery, Anne Arundel, Prince George’s counties and Baltimore city—have, since the pandemic started, enacted greater restrictions during the pandemic.
Each county is following its own public health advice, Gardner said. She added, however, that counties to the west and Carroll County have less restrictive measures but are also in the middle of a surge.
“There really is a need for regional decision-making and statewide decision-making ... it’s very difficult to effectively do these things in isolation,” Gardner said. “And also, I don’t want to impact business unless I’m going to get a reduction in the spread of the virus.”
That means looking at businesses’ operations and how that correlates to health metrics—cases, hospitalizations, ICU bed use—and whether that will impact spread, Gardner said. Internal discussions about those with county officials—including Health Director Dr. Barbara Brookmyer—occur regularly, the county executive said.
She emphasized public health is the No. 1 priority in her decision-making: “Until we have public health, we can’t have economic health.”
She added greater restrictions are perhaps happening in more densely populated areas in Maryland because of a greater chance of the coronavirus spreading.
She called on people to keep three “Ws” in mind in the coming weeks of the pandemic: Wear face coverings, watch your distance from people and wash your hands.
She later added another “W”: Work from home, when possible.
Brookmyer, who attended Thursday’s briefing and updated county residents about vaccine distribution, reminded them those vaccines are just one layer of protection in preventing the spread of COVID-19.
She also illustrated the importance of the gathering limit, referencing a study from the Georgia Institute of Technology. That study stated if someone is at an event of 25 or more people, the chances of he or she coming into contact with someone who is positive is 44 percent given Frederick County’s current metrics and other conditions.
“If there were 100 people, then that brings it up to 90 percent chance that somebody there is positive,” Brookmyer said of that study. “And by lowering [the gathering size], it does demonstrably reduce the chance that somebody there [has the virus].”