More Coronavirus Regulations Hit Prince George's County

·5 min read

PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, MD — As the fall coronavirus surge takes hold, Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks announced a new wave of regulations on Thursday. These restrictions are temporary, she said, and will last until Jan. 16.

Indoor dining must close by Wednesday at 5 p.m. Casinos and retailers must cut their operating capacities to 25 percent.

Outdoor dining may continue at half capacity, and takeout is still allowed. Alsobrooks encouraged residents to patronize these businesses during the trying times.

"This has been, you should know, a very difficult decision," the county executive said at a press conference announcing the measures. "We are doing what needs to be done now to save the lives of Prince Georgians."

Alsobrooks attended a virtual roundtable on Wednesday with representatives from the seven other largest jurisdictions in Maryland. The meeting included leaders from Baltimore City plus Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Frederick, Harford, Howard and Montgomery counties. Some of those officials outlined new rules for their residents.

Baltimore City will close its theaters as well as its indoor and outdoor dining, Mayor Brandon Scott explained. Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said he motioned to shut down indoor dining and limit capacities at large retailers. Erlich's proposal still needs approval from the County Council.

Alsobrooks last added countywide regulations on Nov. 12. At that time, she trimmed restaurant and bar capacities to 25 percent indoors and 50 percent outdoors. Her most recent measures are even tighter.

In November, the county executive also limited indoor social gatherings to 10 people or one person per 200 square feet of space, whichever is lower. She capped outdoor gatherings at 25 visitors or one person per 200 square feet of space, whichever is lower.

Alsobrooks expanded the county's mask mandate in her Novemeber update. Prince Georgians must now wear a face covering anytime they leave their home and are not practicing vigorous exercise.

The county has since ramped up enforcement on large social social gatherings. On Nov. 20, the Prince George's County Health Department placed a curfew on unaccompanied minors in the National Harbor.

Alsobrooks had complained for weeks that teenagers were loitering in big crowds and throwing parent-funded parties in hotel rooms. Health officials temporarily shut down two National Harbor hotels in response to these illegal events.

"Those personal gatherings are very very dangerous," Alsobrooks said on Wednesday's call. "We are urging you to make those responsible decisions about gatherings."

The county executive did not mention if she would impose additional regulations on businesses at her Thursday press conference. She noted that workers are suffering and directed them to economic relief programs listed on this website.

Statewide contact tracing data shed some light on where residents may transmit the virus. Tracers ask coronavirus patients where they went in the 14 days before testing positive.

The data cannot pinpoint where a person caught the disease, but they suggest common trends among Marylanders who get sick. These were the five most-reported activities among positive individuals since data tracking began on July 10:

  • 21,314 worked outside their home

  • 13,714 shopped indoors

  • 12,475 went to a social gathering of 10 or more people

  • 8,656 dined inside a restaurant or bar

  • 6,149 ate outside one of those businesses

As infections rise, so does the state's hospital usage. On Wednesday, Maryland clocked a record-high 1,715 coronavirus-related hospitalizations. Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman hosted Wednesday's call in response to this spike.

Pittman said the state could reach 10,000 hospitalizations if nothing changes in the coming months, citing his briefings from Johns Hopkins University. Maryland hospitals can accommodate a maximum of 8,000 coronavirus patients if they activate Gov. Larry Hogan's emergency plan.

About 85 percent of the state's acute beds are occupied, Hogan said Tuesday. The intensive care unit is 87 percent full, he noted.

Hogan is working to expand the state's health care reserves. Medical workers interested in helping can sign up at www.marylandmednow.com.

This fall surge challenges Maryland's health care system in new ways. Hospitals canceled elective procedures during the spring wave, dedicating most professionals to the front lines. These surgeries have since returned, meaning fewer workers are available to fight the virus.

Alsobrooks and her colleagues urged Hogan to institute more statewide prevention measures to curb their hospitalization woes. They said Maryland's shared hospital system and porous county borders make it challenging to control the outbreak in each jurisdiction.

Hogan sets the maximum degree that counties may reopen. Local leaders may be more restrictive, but they cannot be more lenient.

"We have to come together because coronavirus does not know borders," Alsobrooks said. "It is traveling through our state. It is incumbent on all of us."

Hogan is working on rolling out the state's coronavirus vaccination plan. Maryland could get its first 155,000 shots within weeks, the governor indicated Tuesday.

"The cavalry is coming," Hogan said. "A vaccine is on the way, but it is absolutely critical that we continue to fight this virus with everything we've got."

Hogan has his own press conference Thursday at 3 p.m. Marylanders can tune in at this link.

To catch up on the latest coronavirus trends in Prince George's County, read Patch's most recent update.

RELATED:

Have a story idea? Please contact me at jacob.baumgart@patch.com with any pitches, tips or questions. Follow me on Twitter @JacobBaumgart and on Facebook @JacobBaumgartJournalist to stay up-to-date with the latest Anne Arundel County and Prince George's County news.

This article originally appeared on the Bowie Patch