2020 | Coronavirus

Elrich says Montgomery County might not reopen as fast as other parts of the state

County health officer says more testing capacity, decline in new cases are benchmarks

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Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said on Saturday that the county might not open as fast as other parts of Maryland during the coronavirus pandemic.

This week, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan amended his March 30 stay-at-home order to allow individual and small group sports and activities. In response, the Montgomery parks department announced it was reopening tennis courts, some campgrounds and some driving and archery ranges.

Hogan has said he might lift his stay-at-home order as soon as next week, but it will depend on whether there is a consistent decrease in COVID-19 hospitalizations.

Elrich, who spoke during a virtual press conference Saturday, noted that Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said this week that her county also might not reopen on Hogan’s timeline.

Montgomery and Prince George’s counties were the counties with the highest number of COVID-19 cases in Maryland as of Saturday.

Hogan has granted individual jurisdictions the latitude to open on their own timeline, Elrich said.

“Until we’re all ready to open, it is not prudent for any one of us  to open, and that’s been what’s driving our policy so far,” Elrich said. “We’re looking forward to what the governor has to say next week, but I can assure you that until our health officer thinks that it’s safe to open, we will not be opening some of these things.”

County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles said during the press conference that he will consider several factors when deciding when the county is read to reopen  including an increase in testing capacity, a decrease in the hospitalization rate, a decrease in fatalities and a decrease in the test positivity rate.

Gayles said that as of last week 2.3% of county residents had been tested, which is above Hogan’s benchmark of 2%. But he said he hopes to increase that number. About 20% of people who have been tested were positive for the virus, he said.

Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com

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For other Bethesda Beat coverage of the coronavirus, click here.

To see a timeline of major coronavirus developments in Maryland and Montgomery County, click here.