MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. (WDVM) — Wednesday, August 5 marks five months since the first cases of coronavirus were confirmed in the state of Maryland. On a number of occasions since then, leaders in the state’s most populous county, Montgomery, have clashed with state leaders over restrictions and reopening plans.
The latest disagreement comes over the county’s decision to order private schools to stay closed this fall. Throughout the pandemic response, Montgomery has lagged behind the rest of the state in regard to reopening.
“Weeks ago, the governor went one way, and Montgomery County and Prince George’s County, to some extent, said, ‘we’re not going that way.’ Numbers in our part of the state are tracking in one direction, and the rest of the state is tracking in the other direction,” said Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich of the impact of stricter guidelines and delayed reopening.
Montgomery County’s test positivity rate sits at 2.5 percent, below the state average of about 4 percent.
It comes as controversy stirs over Montgomery County’s decision to keep private schools closed, while the state tries to override the decision. Elrich says he hasn’t spoken with Gov. Larry Hogan (R-Md.) since his order came down. As of now, the county’s orders stands as is.
Chief Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles says some people are missing the point behind keeping students and staff home.
“It’s a little frustrating, actually. The purpose behind what we’re doing is to keep kids safe, keep staff members safe, and keep parents safe, who may be impacted when kids and staff members come to school,” Dr. Gayles said Wednesday.
The county has loosened some restrictions while tightening others, like restricting alcohol sales after 10 p.m. while allowing services like tattooing and massage to resume. Leaders faced criticism for allowing those activities, but not a return to classrooms this fall.
“There’s no equivalency of getting your hair, fingernails, or toes done and sitting in a room together all day. We don’t see a pattern of people getting infected from having their toenails done. We do see a pattern of people contracting the virus from gathering in larger groups,” Elrich said, defending the county’s move.
Dr. Gayles says he believes the the county is moving in the right direction, but the fight to flatten the curve isn’t over.
“We’re making strides. We’re seeing improvement and we’re making positive progress, but it’s not the end of the game,” said Dr. Gayles.
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