County Has Not Seen Uptick in COVID-19 Cases Since Protests Began, Gayles Says

Montgomery County has not seen an increase in COVID-19 cases due to large-scale Black Lives Matter protests, said County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles.

“What we have observed here is since that started within the county, we have not seen an uptick in cases,” he said at a county council meeting Tuesday. He emphasized that just because there was not a spike in cases, that does not mean there is no risk involved with large gatherings like a protest. 

One of the large protests held early on was on June 1 at Rio in Gaithersburg. Gayles acknowledged that protests have been ongoing for more than two weeks, and that the incubation period for COVID-19 ranges from a couple of days to about two weeks. 

“But the data we have so far does not support a significant increase in cases that correlates to the time frame of which the gatherings have happened,” Gayles said. 

Councilmember Evan Glass, who asked the question about potential repercussions of protests, said he’s been to several rallies and everyone he saw wore masks. 

“I even appreciate the organizers who have been mindful of the social distancing and even going as far as wiping the microphone in between speakers,” Glass said. 

After hearing from Gayles and Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security Director Dr. Earl Stoddard, the council unanimously approved County Executive Marc Elrich’s executive order to begin Phase 2 of reopening on Friday at 5 p.m.

Under the order, the following will be allowed: 

Retail: Curbside, one person per 200 sq. ft indoors
Restaurants: Outdoor seating, and 50 percent indoor capacity if distancing is possible
Childcare: Can reopen with no more than 15 people per classroom
Gyms/fitness centers: Can reopen with one person per 200 sq. ft
Houses of worship: Indoor and outdoor with one person/family per 200 sq. ft, and drive-in
Gatherings: Either a maximum of 50 people, or one person/family per 200 sq. ft, whichever one is lower
Hair/nails: All personal services can restart with appointments only, one person per 200 sq. ft
Car washes: Internal and exterior cleaning with requirements
Offices/multi-tenant commercial buildings: Limited use for nonessential workers
Pools: Indoor and outdoor open with capacity restrictions
Outdoor camps: Expanded opening
Outdoor youth sports: Expanded opening for low-contact sports
Parks/playgrounds: Parks open for exercise and fitness classes with requirements, playgrounds can reopen with requirements, low-contact sports only
Ride On bus: Expanded schedule and routes

The following will remain closed: tattoo parlors, tanning salons, massage parlors, concerts, theaters, senior centers, libraries and recreation facilities like bowling alleys and amusement parks.

The county said positive COVID-19 metrics have allowed for the move to Phase 2. These include decreasing numbers in daily new cases and a declining hospitalization rate.

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