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by Judith Hruz
The county executive and health officer are in no hurry to move into Phase 3 of reopening, saying the coronavirus is showing a resurgence in some areas of the country and they want to take measured steps, as they have throughout the pandemic, before moving forward.
“We have continued to see improvements in our data,” County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles said during the weekly media briefing on July 1. But, he added, Montgomery County officials are paying very close attention to how reopening is playing out in other jurisdictions.
“We’re not going to go out of control” and have to roll back the openings, County Executive Marc Elrich said.
Elrich said he and other county leaders “take great pride” in reopening safely.
“We got as far as we did because we adhered to a set of guidelines,” he said.
Elrich gave the go-ahead for the county to enter Phase 2 at 5 p.m. June 19, which loosened restrictions on numerous businesses, houses of worship and activities that had been closed or, in some case open for curbside service and takeout only, for over two months.
The county executive has said the only way to get to next step is to continue being cautious, referring to following the guidelines of wearing face coverings, staying at least six feet away from others, and continuing to wash hands.
As he has all along, Elrich gave no date for when Phase 3 might be implemented, preferring to rely on science and data.
He said he wanted to wait at least a week after the Independence Day holiday weekend to get a good reading on whether the county sees an increase in the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths. That data will help him make a decision on moving forward.
In a directive issued June 18 by Gayles, residents (except those under age 2 and those with health conditions that make breathing difficult) must wear face coverings whenever they are in public and physical distancing is not possible.
The locations include:
On public transportation such as Ride On, Metro and ride sharing;
Entering businesses and services that are open, including grocery stores, restaurants, retail businesses, religious services, hair salons and barbershops, pools (except when in the water) and gyms and fitness centers (including when exercising);
Exercising or interacting with others outdoors;
Outdoor markets, including farmer’s markets; and
Child care centers
“In order to continue to reopen more aspects of community life, it is extremely important that everyone do their part to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 and that means wearing a face covering each and every time we go out in public,” Gayles said. “Wearing a face covering and maintaining physical distancing is what each of us needs to do if we are going to continue to see our numbers of new cases decrease.”
A face covering is any paper or cloth, such as a bandana or scarf, that is well-secured and covers the nose, mouth and chin.
Plastic shields, typically worn only in health-care settings by medical professionals, do not take the place of the face covering requirement, the county said. They are worn as an added measure to protect eyes and don’t filter air, and serve as a physical barrier to particles that you breathe. A face covering prevents a person from spreading the virus to others, according to the county.
Businesses allowed to reopen during Phase 2 are required to ensure that their employees are wearing face coverings at all times, including during food preparation and when interacting with customers.
For more, visit www.montgomerycountymd.gov.
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