ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Montgomery County leaders held their weekly news briefing to provide COVID-19 and county reopening updates, the first time they're speaking since county officials sent a letter to Gov. Hogan to ask for more restrictions.
Maryland is currently in Phase 2 of its reopening plan but has seen a recent increase in cases, averaging 700 new coronavirus cases per day.
Health officials from Anne Arundel County, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Howard County, Montgomery County, and Prince George’s County wrote a joint letter to Hogan asking him to take action to help reverse the recent coronavirus trends, urging Hogan to revise activities allowed under Phase 2 of the reopening plan.
The letter called for restricted crowd gathering sizes, closure of indoor restaurants and bars and restrictions on travel to and from areas deemed COVID hotspots.
Hogan responded Tuesday and said he is not ruling out rollbacks on reopening, particularly if school reopenings cause outbreaks.
"I don’t want to think about it, but you do have to plan for the worst-case scenario," Hogan told former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb in a publicly posted webinar hosted by the American Enterprise Institute. "When we reach certain points, if you have an outbreak or an infection in a school - if it reaches a certain level - if we get positivity rates in that area we have to have some brakes to say we’ve got to catch this before its spreads so if you're going to open schools you have to have some braking mechanisms."
Hogan did not say what metrics might trigger rollbacks but tweeted about an uptick in hospitalizations and a rise in the infection rate among younger adults.
The governor also said counties have the authority to roll back reopenings to address local conditions.
Montgomery County chief health officer Dr. Travis Gayles said that individual counties may not be as effective as broader statewide action in controlling COVD's spread.
“We did communicate with the deputy secretary, who is our boss, in a private communication to discuss what the approach is to address these increasing numbers," Gayles said.
Gayles would not say what metrics might cause Montgomery County to roll back reopening and said there are no current plans to pull back in the county.
"If the time comes for us to make a decision to scale back reopening, we look forward to collaborating with all of our neighboring jurisdictions, but Prince George’s will make decisions based on the data that dictates we take action," Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said in a statement.
"Our jurisdictions 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," officials said in the letter to Hogan.
Mike Ricci, communications director for the Governor's office, issued a response to the letter, saying, “We look closely at the data every day with public health experts, and we continue to emphasize caution and vigilance to Marylanders. 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.”
The full letter can be read below:
Good morning and thank you for your leadership and support throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. We are writing to share our concerns regarding the recent increase in daily cases across the state and impact of the virus over the past week. This has been evidenced throughout many of our jurisdictions by increased daily case totals, increased rates of transmission (Ro), and increasing Covid related hospitalizations and critical care usage. We are writing to ask that the state take action to curb these trends, including revisiting the activities allowed under the current Phase 2 Executive orders. Our respective jurisdictions are considering a range of revisions to address these trends, including, but not limited to (recognizing we all have different provisions as a part of our current Phase 2 provisions):
- Restrictions on gathering sizes (up to 10 or 50)
- Face covering mandates for indoor and outdoor activities,
- Closure of indoor restaurants and bars for service, permitting outdoor seating/curbside pick-up and delivery services only,
- Closure of indoor amusement facilities,
- Closure of indoor recreational facilities,
- Restrictions on travel to and from areas deemed COVID hotspots
- Closure of indoor mall activities such as food courts and allowing indoor spaces solely for entrance to stores;
Our jurisdictions 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. Thank you for considering our request, and we look forward to continuing to work together.
Health Officers from Anne Arundel County, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Howard County, Montgomery County, and Prince George’s County.