UPDATED: County will post reopening benchmarks updates in ‘next day or so,’ county official says

UPDATED: County will post reopening benchmarks updates in ‘next day or so,’ county official says

Council member says some benchmarks are 'amorphous'

| Published:

Montgomery County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles pictured at a press conference on March 12. The county expects to post daily updates on reopening benchmarks in the next day or so, according to a spokeswoman.

File photo

This story was updated at 11:10 a.m. May 20, 2020, to include additional comments from county officials.

As Montgomery County figures out when it will reopen, officials plan to post updates to its reopening benchmarks “in the next day or so,” Mary Anderson, a spokeswoman for the county’s health department, wrote in an email on Tuesday.

The information will be updated daily, she wrote, and more information would be released during a media briefing on Wednesday afternoon.

Some areas of Maryland have begun reopening, but places that have been harder hit, such as Montgomery County, have decided they aren’t ready yet and are waiting.

Dr. Travis Gayles, the county’s health officer, said last week that the county has identified several benchmarks that need to be met before starting to reopen.

He hasn’t set a reopening date, but said officials will post updates on the benchmarks for residents to follow along and get a better idea of the area’s status.

The time frame for reopening will be “consistent” with the Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia areas, Gayles told the County Council on Friday, without getting into possible dates. Northern Virginia cities and counties are expected to begin a first phase of reopening on May 29, while D.C. has extended its stay-at-home order to June 8.

On Friday, Council Member Andrew Friedson sent a memo to County Executive Marc Elrich and Gayles that asked for the benchmarks updates to be made available immediately and in multiple languages to provide clarity for residents.

Montgomery County’s benchmarks are:
● a sustained decrease, or rolling average, during a 14-day period of: new cases in an environment of increased testing, hospitalization rates, ICU rates, deaths, coronavirus-like and influenza-like illnesses in the health care system, percentage of acute bed usage, percentage of ICU bed usage, and percentage of emergency and critical care equipment used by coronavirus patients
● a sustained capacity to test 5% of the county’s population per month
● a sustained decrease in the number of new positive tests
● a sustained, robust system of contact tracing
● The beginning of a meaningful infrastructure to identify and begin addressing demonstrated coronavirus-related inequities in health outcomes

Friedson wrote in the memo that some of the benchmarks are “amorphous.” He said certain aspects of the targets need to be defined and tracked, such as the coronavirus-like and influenza-like illnesses in the health care system.

Friedson also wrote that the last benchmark is not well-defined and the determination of whether the item has been met “seems quite subjective.”

“When lifting stay-at-home orders and reopening a business is at stake, the county’s metrics must be objective and easily explainable to the public,” he wrote.

Montgomery County has had the highest number of deaths in the state and the second highest number of cases behind Prince George’s County.

On May 13, Gov. Larry Hogan issued an executive order to allow a slow reopening of the state’s economy and amenities starting at 5 p.m. on Friday of last week.

The stay-at-home order began on March 30.

On Thursday, County Executive Marc Elrich extended the stay-at-home order for an indefinite period for the county. The following day, the County Council unanimously approved his executive order.

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

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