Barbara Brookmyer COVID

In this March 2020 file photo, Frederick County health officer for Dr. Barbara Brookmyer announces that a person in Frederick County has tested positive for the new coronavirus disease. The person is a woman in her 30s.

After roughly five hours, the Frederick County Board of Health approved additional regulations on wedding venues and fitness centers, along with limiting gathering sizes. It was a split vote.

Before then, the Board of Health — consisting of County Executive Jan Gardner (D), County Health Officer Barbara Brookmyer and the County Council — heard from more than three dozen community members Tuesday night, all opposed to the new measures.

Some called them “draconian.” Others said it was up to individual businesses to enforce mask wearing, sanitation and social distancing requirements. Most noted coronavirus-related restrictions were being applied to small businesses, but big-box stores were flourishing.

Those calls weren’t enough, however, to change the board’s mind. Instead, they passed the regulations, which limit indoor and outdoor social gatherings to 25 people or less, and wedding venues to 50 percent capacity, among a slew of other restrictions.

Those included distancing between tables and requiring staff to wear face coverings, but Councilman Steve McKay (R) was able to introduce an amendment that allowed some dancing at wedding venues, which was originally restricted. That passed in a 5-3 vote, with Gardner, Council President M.C. Keegan-Ayer (D) and Councilman Jerry Donald (D) voting no.

Earlier this month, in its first meeting in years, the health board met late into the night and voted to impose new restrictions amid the pandemic. Those included a mandate that residents wear masks in all indoor public spaces as well as outdoor public spaces when physical distancing can’t be maintained with non-family members in Frederick County and a limit on all gatherings in residences and businesses — restaurants not included — to no more than 25 people.

Restaurant capacity remains at 50 percent, as those activities are not considered social gatherings, said Vivian Laxton, Gardner’s communications director.

On Tuesday, McKay was successful in getting Brookmyer to delete language that would have allowed her to enact future control measures, prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people or prohibiting retail occupancy greater than 50 percent capacity.

He failed, however, in striking the 25 percent capacity for fitness centers. That amendment failed with McKay, Council Vice President Michael Blue (R) and Councilman Phil Dacey (R) voting yes.

Some, in their support vote on the regulations, pointed to inaction in Congress passing a second major coronavirus relief bill.

“The money is in there in the HEROES Act, we’ve had a complete abandonment of leadership in the federal government,” Donald said. “It’s like they’re salting the earth and walking out of their house while it’s on fire.”

Both Gardner and Keegan-Ayer said they’ve heard from health care workers who have to deal with the physical costs of the pandemic every day.

Gardner reminded people that the coronavirus is not the flu, noting that while more than 50 people died from the flu in 2019-20, more than 4,300 people have died from the coronavirus, in Maryland.

“I appreciate that if your business is at 50 percent, you’re probably losing money ... the perspective we didn’t hear tonight was from people on the frontline of the pandemic,” Gardner said in a nod to health care workers.

The Republican members of the County Council disagreed in their vote. Dacey said the amount of opposition he heard Tuesday night was “unprecedented” in his time in public office.

“I don’t think there’s anybody out there that thinks we should operate normally ... we’re losing the faith of hundreds of businesses who are here,” Dacey said.

Gardner, Donald, Keegan-Ayer, Hagen and Councilwoman Jessica Fitzwater (D) voted to support the amended regulations. Blue, Dacey and McKay voted against.

Follow Steve Bohnel on Twitter:

@Steve_Bohnel.

Steve Bohnel is the county government reporter for the Frederick News-Post. He can be reached at sbohnel@newspost.com. He graduated from Temple University, with a journalism degree in May 2017, and is a die-hard Everton F.C. fan.

(27) comments

vodalone

If county officials here and nationwide were serious about stopping the spread much more would be done to limit unnecessary shopping at places like Best Buy, Walmart, Target, etc. But these officials know they have to tread lightly with big corp. or they'll lose any chances of reelection. 50% capacity at a Walmart is still over 1000 people, think about that.

mgoose806

It is not the Big Corporations they are worried about directly. It is the voting public. If they limited Walmart, Target, Costco, etc.. to selling just food, there would be immediate outrage. Politicians are hypocrites, including the those in Frederick County. Make it look like your extremely concerned with the "safety" of the citizens, but only enough not to anger them enough not to get reelected. Fact is none of them have the training, expertise , acumen or insight to lead the population past a Pandemic. This is the case with both parties, whose judgement on how to lead is based on their political affiliation and what is politically expedient.

“ Fact is none of them have the training, expertise , acumen or insight to lead the population past a Pandemic.” But other countries do? Why are we worse? We lead the world in highest number of deaths, 262,000 and over 12 million positive cases.

And actually Frederick County has done better then most jurisdictions.

TomWheatley

Possibly because we are a bunch or ornery old cusses and skeptical of our elected officials?

bosco

[thumbup] Tom. America was born because of oppression by King George III and his draconian treatment of the colonists. It's in our DNA.

Plus, as I say, You can always tell when a politician is lying, his/her lips are moving.

[ninja]

Aslan19

The "leaders" who passed these regulations totally lost me and any possible support when they blamed the reason for the increased restrictions on the failure of the Federal government to pass a Covid bailout bill. The two topics are related only because they both are about DIFFERENT aspects of Covid. The restrictions are supposed to help 'flatten the curve' while the Covid bailout bill is supposed to mitigate the impact of restrictions put into place to address case surges.

bosco

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][ninja]

chsalamon

Why are they not restricting the amount of people allowed in the Walmarts and the groceriy stores and the Best Buys? Our local county is targeting small businesses for failure by only applying the restrictions to small businesses it is Despicable

MD1756

The state has already restricted the amount of people allowed in retail at 50% of permitted levels. The County Board of Health does not exist to help people or business put on their social gatherings or engage in other "luxury" activities. They exist to protect the health of the public and unfortunately too many people are going to these "gatherings" and then spreading the virus to others. Apart from social gatherings (including bars) and fitness centers, where do you see that the board of health has placed greater restrictions on small businesses beyond what the state has done?

Aslan19

@Chsalamon, because 'small' business does not provide the humongous donations that are required for people to get elected. This is the government picking and choosing who wins and loses in a manner that has the least effect on the possibility of being able to raise the cash that is needed for election/reelection. Plain and simple.

C.D.Reid

I would love to hear someone to ask Gardner et al. why they're closing down small businesses and leaving the box store chains alone, and hear their rationale for doing so. I'm sure they have a prepared answer, I'm just curious as to what it is.

FrederickFan

What are you talking about? No small businesses were closed.

Greg F

Who closed by order...be specific or just go away. Troll.

C.D.Reid

Ok, allow me to be a little more specific; they're cracking down on businesses to the point where some small ones have been forced to close from a lack of business revenue due to the restrictions. There, does that make it a little more clearer for your foggy mind, Doctor Fed up Greggy?

bosco

Doctor Fed Up GregF sez........."Who closed by order...be specific or just go away. Troll"........that's precious coming from the King of the Trolls who never seems to have a good thing to say about anyone or anything. [ninja]

C.D.Reid

Agreed, bosco. It just seems like all of fido's LLBTT members just love to share their personal misery with everyone. I wonder if all their family members are as miserable as they are.... ? Either way, Happy Thanksgiving buddy! [thumbup]

FrederickFan

I don't think you will find any local elected officials who received campaign contributions from any big box stores or other similar businesses. You can look it up. These national businesses don't care who is in office.

FrederickFan

The restrictions don't only apply to small businesses. There were no new restrictions even talked about for most business types. There were no changes to restaurants, retail, distilleries etc....though someone is spreading this false information.

bigrik71

I was on that call last night and it was a sham. First, they changed the rules at the last minute by not allowing persons to record voicemails, and then they decided to cut the meeting off with many people still on hold to voice their opinions. Sorry they felt it such a burden to listen to people that they are hurting with the rules they enact, but a lot of us has been carry the burden of those rules for months.

I purpose to the health board and Jan Gardner this; If you really care about the people like you say then forfeit half your six month salary to a fund to help the small business owners, and workers, who’s lives you are destroying with your overzealous rules.

bosco

Easy work around. Call it a protest. Draconian rules result in civil disobedience.

[ninja]

NewMarketParent

@Reek

You absolutely have the right to protest.

Businesses need licenses to operate and if they allow too many to gather during a pandemic, they can lose that.

Go a head and protest, just observe the rules.

C.D.Reid

"Go ahead and protest, just observe the rules." You mean like the way all the blm'ers "observed" the rules with all the little parades and marches they had earlier this year? Everyone of them had a mask on during the course of those events, didn't they? Yeah, right. [lol][lol][lol]

NewMarketParent

@CDeez

Firstly, the protests were all outdoors and many of them (not all of them were either masked or six feet away), but please don't let the facts get in the way of a good strong rant. Go ahead and get that gas off of your chest.

C.D.Reid

@NewMarketMommy/Chump

"Firstly, the protests were all outdoors and many of them (not all of them were either masked or six feet away), but please don't let the facts get in the way of a good strong rant." You admit that I'm right, and then tell me not to let facts get in the way? Is that supposed to make some kind of sense? I guess in your empty head it does.

mgoose806

Reason to have a wedding on private property.

MD1756

The state-wide restrictions still apply.

lobo4109

So who is regulating retail stores being operated on residential properties? Well, not the health department or the zoning department, because you see, these businesses are illegal and above all laws and regulations,- no masks, no record where the merchandise came from, no business records (only cash sales). Kinda hard to shut down a business on residential property when our government has turned a blind eye. Every legal business in this county should ask why.

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