County Council allows bowling alleys to reopen; soccer to resume
Members want faster process to review, decide about future amendments
The Montgomery County Council on Monday lifted some COVID-19 restrictions, including allowing museums and bowling alleys to reopen and allowing soccer activities to resume.
The council also modified its face covering mandate to clarify that masks must cover people’s noses, as well as their mouths and chins while in public.
Health officials said they expected to announce on Monday that Potomac Valley Swimming would be allowed to expand operations.
The county is still in Phase 2 of reopening, which began on June 19.
Council members said they were “pleased” about the changes, which were made as an amendment to an executive order issued Aug. 5 that defines what activities are allowed during the pandemic.
But some members said they would like to be able to review potential changes to the order more quickly.
“We should have the ability to move more quickly to make more tweaks, so we’re able to act in a timely manner,” Council Member Hans Riemer said.
Riemer was speaking specifically about how long it took to review whether to allow soccer to resume.
The council first discussed on Aug. 4 whether the sport should be allowed, and Monday’s action, 20 days later, “may be too late,” Riemer said. He said it will be difficult for leagues to fit in a season of competition before fall weather approaches and the sun sets earlier.
Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles said part of the delay in making the decision about soccer was because of conflicting guidance about whether it is a medium- or high-contact sport.
Gayles said the Maryland health department has classified soccer as a medium-contact sport, but it is classified as high-contact by the NCAA.
“I give that as an example to say it’s not an effort to try to take long, but we’re trying to ensure we have comprehensive information to inform our decision-making processes,” Gayles said.
Bowling alleys are also allowed to reopen at 50% capacity or with a maximum of 50 people, whichever is less. All equipment must be cleaned between each person’s or group’s use, according to the amended order.
Museums can reopen with a limit of one person per 200 square feet of space. Interactive exhibits that require people to touch displays must remain closed.
The changes approved in the council’s unanimous vote were:
• Recategorized soccer as a medium-risk sport, and allowed games and practices to resume with proper safety precautions in place (athletic tournaments for any sport are not allowed)
• Modified the definition of “face covering” to include covering the chin, mouth and nose, and reemphasizing that everyone older than 2 is required to wear a face covering
• Prohibited sporting events with teams from outside Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.
• Set a 50-person limit for sporting events, including coaches, participants and spectators (spectators are limited to parents or guardians and immediate family members of players)
• Changed a condition for having more than 150 people at an outdoor religious service from a waiver requirement to a “letter of approval” from the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services
• Reinstated a requirement for food service facilities to post signs advising customers about face covering and social distancing restrictions.
Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at email@example.com