ROCKVILLE, MD — A recent uptick in COVID-19 cases has prompted Montgomery County officials to put plans to ease restrictions on hold.
During a meeting with reporters on Thursday, the county's head of emergency management, Earl Stoddard, said the county planned to issue an amended executive order this week that would lift restrictions on escape rooms, live performances, and youth sports activities.
But the rate of new cases per 100,000 is casting doubt on the county's ability to loosen COVID-19 restrictions, or move into phase three altogether.
For the first time since Aug. 2, the number of cases per 100,000 residents rose above 10. That's the threshold at which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers a region to be at high risk for coronavirus transmission.
"We were preparing an update to our executive order this week that would have allowed for some additional activities. We are putting that on pause while the public health team does an investigation of the uptick in cases to understand exactly what (caused it)," Stoddard said.
If there's still an uptick in the coming weeks, Stoddard said officials "would be having much more serious conversations" about rollbacks.
"Our goal is to avoid the spikes that other places are seeing," County Executive Marc Elrich (D) said. "That is territory we do not want to go into."
The county continues to have the highest number of deaths in the state — with 820 fatalities as of Thursday, Oct. 15. It also has the second-highest number of confirmed cases (24,015), after Prince George's County, according to the latest figures.
Unlike most parts of the Maryland, Montgomery County has not entered phase three of reopening.
Officials say the county will not move forward until they consistently see low and medium levels of transmission — or 10 to 35 cases a day. Over the last three months, daily COVID-19 cases have hovered between 47 and 171.