2020 | Coronavirus

UPDATED: County will ‘continue to monitor data’ to decide whether to renew COVID-19 restrictions

Health officer discusses message sent to state leaders

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Coronavirus dept of health photo

This story was updated at 3:30 p.m. on July 21, 2020, to include information from a press conference held by Dr. Travis Gayles. It was also updated at 10:17 a.m. on July 22, 2020, to update information about cases.

Montgomery County’s health officer said there are no imminent plans to reinstate COVID-19 restrictions, but local officials will “continue to monitor” data to determine if more stringent actions are needed to slow the virus’ spread.

During a media briefing on Tuesday afternoon, Dr. Travis Gayles spoke about a message that some health officers across the state sent to Deputy Health Secretary Fran Phillips.

The message asked Phillips to reinstate some restrictions, like prohibiting large gatherings, not allowing indoor dining, closing indoor amusement and recreational facilities, and restricting travel to and from COVID-19 hotspots.

In the message, the health officers referred to a statewide increase in coronavirus-related hospitalizations and critical care usage.

The health officers said county officials “are prepared to act quickly to address these concerns but would prefer for the state to take action to create a unified, standardized approach to address this resurgence of cases.”

During Tuesday’s media briefing, Gayles did not say if there are any specific restrictions the county is considering reimposing, but officials will continue to “watch how numbers in other jurisdictions move forward” and “continue to review if we feel closing indoor facilities will be beneficial.”

He said officials will review data to determine if any activities or places have led to more confirmed cases or exposures to the virus.

Gayles said Montgomery County’s COVID-19 data has plateaued, with between 70 and 80 new cases reported each day and hospitalization and ICU bed utilization rates remaining steady.

But, the state has seen an uptick in those areas, Gayles said.

Montgomery County’s COVID-19 caseload has been increasing by less than 1% consistently for more than a month, including 15 consecutive days.

As of Wednesday morning, the county has had 16,593 cases, a 0.4% increase from Tuesday’s total.

The state has had 80,172 cases on Wednesday, an increase of roughly 0.8% from the previous day.

Cases in the state have been increasing at a slightly higher rate than in the county. The state increase has been more than 1% for five of the last nine days.

Much of the increase has been in the Baltimore area, Gayles said on Tuesday.

“When our peers in other jurisdictions are experiencing upticks, it’s in our best interest to keep a keen eye on … what’s happening across the state and how that might impact the safety of our residents,” Gayles said. “… We don’t operate on an island. People move back and forth across our borders … and so it’s important that when we look at actions that we also think from a regional and state perspective.”

In an email to Bethesda Beat on Tuesday morning, Mike Ricci, a spokesman for Gov. Larry Hogan’s office, wrote that state officials “look closely at the data every day with public health experts” and are emphasizing “caution and vigilance” to people.

“We have stressed to local health officers the importance of enforcing the public health orders currently in place, particularly at bars and restaurants. We cannot allow a small segment of bad actors to squander the sacrifices Marylanders have made. But as the governor has said, if necessary, he is prepared to take action,” he wrote.

The county entered its second phase of reopening on June 19. Neither County Executive Marc Elrich nor Gayles has said when the county will move into the next reopening phase.