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by Judith Hruz
As cases of COVID-19 are showing increases around the state, Gov. Larry Hogan put the brakes on moving any further into reopening during the coronavirus pandemic.
Maryland is in Stage 2 and will stay there, Hogan said during a July 29 press conference, “until it is safe, prudent and thoroughly backed by data and medical science.”
Montgomery County will remain in Stage 2, as well.
“Obviously, no one feels comfortable going forward right now,” County Executive Marc Elrich said during his weekly press briefing on July 30.
Both Hogan and Elrich stressed wearing masks, staying at least six feet away from others in public, even outdoors, and washing hands.
They also warned that although Stage 2 allows for outdoor gatherings of up to 50 people, the smaller the gathering, the better.
Hogan reported that 21 percent of COVID-19 cases are associated with outdoor gatherings.
Montgomery County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles said many people believe being outdoors reduces the opportunity for transmitting the virus, yet “outdoor gatherings still pose a significant risk.”
Hogan said the top activity of those who have tested positive for COVID-19 in recent weeks – 44 percent – is attending family gatherings.
“We think about high-risk activities,” he said, adding, “but each of us has to be vigilant.”
With the unanimous support of the Maryland Coronavirus Recovery Team, Hogan expanded the statewide order for wearing masks that has been in effect since April 18.
Under this order, which took effect July 31 at 5 p.m., all Marylanders over the age of five are required to wear face coverings in the public spaces of all businesses across the state.
Face coverings will also be required in outdoor public areas whenever it is not possible to maintain physical distancing. The expanded order continues to provide certain exceptions, including for medical conditions.
On July 29, Hogan also directed the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) to issue a public health advisory for out-of-state travel. Under the advisory, Marylanders are strongly advised against traveling to states with positivity rates of 10% or higher. Anyone traveling from the states should get tested and self-quarantine while awaiting results.
This public health advisory, which took effect immediately, applies to personal, family or business travel of any kind. Marylanders are advised to postpone or cancel travel to these areas until their positivity rates decline.
As of press time, the advisory applies to Florida, Texas, Georgia, Louisiana, Arizona, Alabama, South Carolina, Nebraska, and Idaho.
County and state leaders have for several weeks cautioned Marylanders to remain vigilant in following required safety guidelines.
Elrich said how well Montgomery County has done in reducing the test positivity rate to 3.27 percent on July 22 – Montgomery and Prince George’s counties at one point accounted for half of all positive cases in Maryland – has everything to do with the way public responded to wearing masks, washing hands and getting tested.
“It’s the community that’s ultimately responsible,” he said.
But Gayles reminded that Montgomery County “is not in a bubble” and that places in the state, national capital region and country that are worse than the county.
He said three weeks ago the community was asking when the county would be moving into Stage 3 of reopening.
“Our realities have changed,” he said.
For more, visit www.montgomerycountymd.gov.
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