2021 | Coronavirus

County considering phased reopening based on vaccination levels

Three phases would loosen restrictions on gatherings, businesses, activities

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Montgomery County officials are working on a phased plan to reopen businesses and lift restrictions as more eligible residents receive COVID-19 vaccines.

The new guidance would split the plan into three phases of reopening based on the percentage of the county’s population vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The first two phases are based on 50% and 60% of the population getting a first vaccine dose. The third phase is based on 50% of the population being fully vaccinated.

The plan is scheduled for a public hearing and vote at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday. The deadline to sign up to speak at the hearing is at 5 p.m. on Monday.

About 49% of the county’s population has received at least one dose of a vaccine — right below where the first phase would begin.

The phases would begin automatically when Dr. Travis Gayles, the county’s health officer, reported the vaccination progress to the Board of Health.

However, if community transmission metrics indicate that reopening would harm public health, Gayles would report those concerns to the council. After a public hearing on those concerns, the council could suspend the continuation to the next reopening phase.

Once 50% of the county population received at least one dose, these measures would be implemented:
● Gathering limits would increase to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors (currently 25 indoors and 50 outdoors)
● Businesses limited to 25% capacity would move to 50% capacity if they do not sell or permit the consumption of food or drink
● Camps could move to the gathering limits of 50 indoors and 100 outdoors (currently 25 indoors and 50 outdoors)
● Escape rooms could allow 10 people per game (currently 6 people per private game)
● Museums and galleries could reopen touch exhibits
● Malls could reopen pedestrian concourses and return tables and chairs inside
● Sports could move to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors, with a similar number of spectators (currently 25 indoors and 50 outdoors)

Once 60% of the population received at least one dose, these additional allowances would begin:
● Gathering limits would increase to 250 people indoors and no limit outdoors
● Most businesses would move to 75% capacity and could sell food and drink for consumption while seated
● Camps could increase to gathering limits of 250 people indoors with no capacity limits outdoors and could permit campers from outside Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia
● Convention and banquet facilities would be limited to 50% of the maximum capacity per state restrictions
● Cigar and hookah bars could permit smoking outdoors
● Food service establishments could move to 75% of maximum capacity
● Religious facilities could move to 75% of maximum capacity
● Sports could increase capacity for participants and spectators to 250 people indoors and no limit outdoors

Under the third phase, once 50% of the population is fully vaccinated with a second dose or a one-dose vaccine, all businesses and activities in the county would have to follow any state or Maryland Department of Health requirements in place at the time.

Briana Adhikusuma can be reached at briana.adhikusuma@bethesdamagazine.com.