2021 | Coronavirus

Montgomery County enters second phase of reopening plan

Population hits 60% threshold with at least one vaccine dose

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Montgomery County on Monday entered the second phase of its three-stage reopening plan, with 60% of the county’s population receiving at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

Sonya Healy, a spokeswoman for the County Council, said the second phase of reopening triggered the following changes, among others:

  • Removes outdoor capacity restrictions and raises the capacity for indoor events to 250 people
  • Most businesses, restaurants and religious establishments can increase capacity to 75 percent
  • Convention and banquet facilities can increase to 50 percent capacity
  • Indoor sporting events increase to a 250-person capacity limit, and no limit outdoors

Under the first phase — which was based on 50% of the population getting at least one dose of a vaccine — the limits were:

  • Gatherings limits increased to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors
  • Most businesses increased capacity from 25 to 50 percent
  • Malls reopened their indoor concourses and returned tables and chairs inside
  • Sporting events were capped at 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors, with a similar number of spectators

The Board of Health, which consists of the county health officer, County Council and county executive, is scheduled to formally vote on these changes on Tuesday, along with lifting the outdoor mask requirement, which would take effect 5 p.m.

People who are fully vaccinated will not have to wear masks indoors at that time, but businesses, as private entities, can decide whether to require masks.

“Please be respectful of businesses that choose to continue their own mask requirement and individuals who choose to continue wearing one,” Council Member Andrew Friedson posted on Twitter on Monday.

Mary Anderson, a spokeswoman for the county’s Department of Health and Human Services, said Tuesday’s Board of Health vote is primarily about whether to follow the new mask guidance from the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention .

On Friday, county officials determined that the county would enter the final phase of reopening on May 28. That marks two weeks following the date that 50 percent of the county’s total population had received full vaccinations, according to CDC data.

Council Vice President Gabe Albornoz said in an interview Monday evening that the two-week period is important, and urged residents who haven’t been vaccinated to do so.

“We still have 10 days before we hit [May] 28 and we don’t want to disincentivize people in any way from getting their vaccination,” Albornoz said.

The third phase would indicate the full reopening of most businesses and activities countywide. At that point, the county will pull back on its restrictions and follow the state’s guidelines.

Those guidelines include mandatory mask wearing on public transportation, and in schools and health care settings. It also includes recommendations from the state’s Department of Health, which includes distancing tables in restaurants and other protective measures.

In an interview Monday, Council President Tom Hucker thanked the public, but urged residents to remain vigilant in the days and weeks ahead.

“It’s a testament to our residents who have allowed us to follow the science and put public health first,” Hucker said. “The numbers certainly validate our approach, that we’ve been able to save lives and keep a lot of people out of the hospital.”