PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, MD — Upper Marlboro has looked more like Beverly Hills than the county’s capital as of late. As coronavirus continues to shake Prince George’s County, one mansion has ignored gathering regulations and thrown massive pool parties with hundreds of people.
Reports say the parties took place at the Broadwater Mansion, which is owned by former state Sen. Tommie Broadwater Jr. The mansion, which is available for party rentals, does not have an official email or phone number that Patch could contact to request a comment. Police have not released the parties’ exact location within Upper Marlboro.
Prince George’s County Police responded to the same location twice last weekend, breaking up large crowds both times. A video posted on DJ SaySay’s Instagram shows hundreds people packed together at a pool party without masks. The Washington DJ did not immediately respond to Patch’s request for comment.
View this post on InstagramWe went dumb yesterday Uptown Pool Party! #DjSaySay
A post shared by Dj SaySay (@djsaysay) on Jul 27, 2020 at 7:11am PDT
Gatherings with more than 100 people are illegal under County Executive Angela Alsobrooks’ coronavirus regulations. Police did not say whether they arrested any attendees, but they expect the Prince George’s County Health Department and the Department of Permitting, Inspections and Enforcement to issue fines.
County police are exploring potential tickets and legal actions against the event organizers. They have not announced the names of the parties’ hosts.
“These parties are unsafe.” Alsobrooks said at a Thursday press conference. “They are almost certain to spread COVID-19.”
Alsobrooks added that the venue is no longer allowed to host social gatherings, even if they are under the legal limit of 100 people. Her crackdown comes as she threatened fines against businesses violating the county’s coronavirus regulations.
Companies will get a warning after their first infraction of coronavirus orders. A second violation will draw a $1,000 fine. Three breaches is grounds for business closure, Alsobrooks said.
The county executive said the health department has visited more than 200 businesses. A children’s martial arts center is the only business that the health department has closed for breaking coronavirus laws. Alsobrooks urged residents to email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (301) 883-6548 if they encounter a business disobeying the county’s policies.
Gov. Larry Hogan also tightened statewide coronavirus mandates on Wednesday. Starting Friday at 5 p.m., all Marylanders must wear a mask in public places, both indoors and outdoors, where social distancing is not possible.
The maximum fine for violating Hogan’s executive order is $5,000. Violators could also face up to a year in prison for the misdemeanor.
Hogan aimed to further slow the spread of coronavirus by instating a quarantine order on Wednesday. Travelers from these states must self-isolate for 14 days when arriving in Maryland: Florida, Texas, Georgia, Louisiana, Arizona, Alabama, South Carolina, Nebraska and Idaho.
Eight days before Hogan announced the quarantine mandate, Maryland landed on Connecticut, New Jersey and New York’s travel advisory. The governor had previously hesitated to implement a similar regulation in Maryland.
The added precautions follow an increasing amount of coronavirus cases as summer pastimes resumed. The No. 1 activity reported by those who tested positive for the virus was "attending family gatherings," according to Hogan.
These were the top activities among coronavirus patients, he said:
44 percent attended family gatherings
23 percent went to house parties
21 percent patronized outdoor events
"We cannot say with specificity how they got the virus or where they got the virus, but these are commonalities," Hogan said, "And they are significant."
Marylanders who tested positive for coronavirus reported participating in the following activities, Hogan said, citing contact tracing data:
54 percent worked outside the home
39 percent went shopping
23 percent dined outdoors
23 percent dined indoors
"Contact tracing is showing that teleworking is helping to keep Maryland open," Hogan said, encouraging people to continue working from home when possible.
As hospitalizations rise among Marylanders under 35, Hogan is not yet ready to move into Stage 3 of his reopening plan. The state entered Stage 2 on June 5. Prince George’s County moved into Phase 2 on June 15.
Like much of the state, Prince George’s County faces a surge in coronavirus cases among young people. People under 40 account for 46 percent of the county’s total coronavirus cases.
One out of every five coronavirus cases is from a resident aged 30 to 39, according to the county’s most recent data. People aged 20 to 39 make up 37 percent of all the county’s confirmed infections.
Health Officer Ernest Carter said there has been a “stubborn and persistent increase” in coronavirus cases in Prince George’s County. The number of new infections declined every week from May 3 to July 4. Since then, however, cases have grown each week.
New weekly coronavirus cases peaked at 2,438 during the week of Sunday April 26. Weekly cases bottomed out at 581 during the week of June 28. The county tallied 909 new cases last week.
Carter attributes some of this spike to the county’s expanding testing. From May 17 to July 4, Prince George’s County tested around 10,000 residents-per-week.
The last two weeks has seen the county administer 15,668 and 19,254 coronavirus tests, respectively. That’s a 71% increase from the week ending on July 4.
The push for more testing follows Hogan's call for each Maryland jurisdiction to test 10 percent of its population. Prince George's County has tested 14.6 percent of its population so far.
Carter says a glimmer of hope is the county’s ever-declining positivity rate, which has declined every week since it’s high of 43 percent on April 19. The county’s positivity rate now sits at 5.4 percent. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention targets a positivity rate of less than 5 percent.
Though the positivity rate is falling steadily, hospitalizations are on the rise. Hospitalizations maxed out at 244 during the week of May 3. They declined every week from then until July 11 when they reached a low of 45.
Hospitalizations have increased ever since. Now, 59 county residents are in the hospital with coronavirus.
Carter still remains optimistic because the number of patients in the intensive care unit has plateaued around 18. Sixty percent of the county’s ICU beds are available.
The county’s infection rate is also concerning, Carter said. The infection rate is the average number of people that each coronavirus patient passes the disease onto.
If the infection rate is less than 1.0, the number of new coronavirus cases will decline. When it sits at 1.0, infections will spread at a steady, but manageable rate. Should the infection rate eclipse 1.0, cases will grow exponentially.
Carter said the county has an infection rate of 1.1. With cases compounding, Carter reminded residents of the importance of contact tracers.
The disease tracers track down people who could have been exposed to coronavirus. Carter said if people see “MD COVID” on their caller ID, they should answer because a contact tracer is trying to reach them.
He also said residents can get coronavirus testing information by calling 311 or visiting the health department’s website. Locals don’t need an appointment, insurance, doctor’s note or visible symptoms to get a test at county-operated sites. The Prince George’s County health department does not charge for coronavirus tests conducted at its locations.
Carter noted how stressful coronavirus can be. He said anybody seeking mental health help should call 211 and press 1.
“It’s going to take a village to beat this virus,” Carter said. “You are not alone.” Prince George’s County has 22,638 confirmed coronavirus cases. The disease has killed 711 county residents. Twenty-three more deaths are suspected, but are waiting on confirmation from laboratory tests.
“At minimum we must physically distance, wash our hands, wear a mask,” Carter said. “I know I repeat this a lot, but this is the most important thing you can do … Remember, you’re safer at home.”
Maryland Patch Editor Elizabeth Janney contributed reporting to this article.
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