2020 | Coronavirus

County cutting gathering limit to 10, will require face coverings outdoors

Order effective at 5 p.m. Tuesday

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Logo from Montgomery County

This story was updated at 3:50 p.m. on Nov. 24, 2020, to correct that the new gathering limit of 10 is for indoor gatherings only. It was also updated on Nov. 24, 2020, at 4:26 p.m. to include details on capacity restrictions for open businesses and facilities and at 11:25 p.m. to clarify the use of masks outside.

Dr. Travis Gayles, Montgomery County’s health officer, on Tuesday released a new order that reduces the maximum limit on indoor gatherings from 25 to 10.

Residents will also be required to wear face coverings outdoors “when they are likely to come into contact with another person, such as being within six feet of another person for more than a fleeting time.” Face coverings are already required in public places indoors.

The new order on gatherings does not apply to businesses, establishments and facilities that are permitted to operate under the county’s executive order.

The new restrictions will go into effect at 5 p.m. on Tuesday — two days before Thanksgiving.

The limitations on capacity for open businesses, facilities and activities are:
• Food service establishments: 25% occupancy
• Fitness centers: one person per 200 square feet of indoor space or 25% occupancy, whichever is lower
• Hair salons, barbershops and other personal services: one customer for every 200 square feet of service delivery space or 25% occupancy, whichever is lower (only one person allowed in the waiting area at a time)
• Retail shops: one customer per 200 square feet of in-store space or 25% occupancy, whichever is lower
• Bowling alleys: 25% occupancy or a maximum of 25 people, whichever is lower
• Museums and art galleries: one person per 200 square feet of exhibit space or in-store space or 25% occupancy, whichever is lower
• Religious facilities: capacity is determined by dividing the total square footage of the worship space by 50, but the total number of individuals shall not exceed 25% of permitted occupancy.
• Cigar bars, hookah bars, vape shops: Open solely to sell retail goods; smoking on site is prohibited
• Sports: Outside sports must be limited to 25 people. The limit can exceed 25 people only to accommodate the presence of one parent or guardian per youth participant.
• Escape rooms: A maximum of six people are allowed for each private game
• Outdoor ice skating rinks: Limited to outdoor gathering limit, which is 25 people

Officials hope the restrictions will help curtail the high increases in COVID-19 cases. More than 2,000 new cases were reported in the past week.

As of Tuesday morning, the county has had 31,622 confirmed cases and 893 deaths from the virus.

“We are entering a phase of COVID-19 that is very worrisome, and we need every resident to understand what that means,” Gayles said Tuesday in a press release. “It is critical that each one of us takes this directive seriously and does our part to slow the spread. Contact tracing indicates that family and group gatherings are where a significant number of the state’s cases are occurring.”

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