FREDERICK, Md (WDVM) — “Frederick County is now faring worse, in fact, than some of our larger county neighbors, including Howard County and Montgomery County, on the rate of new cases,” County Executive Jan Gardner announced Monday morning.
During a public briefing, Gardner reported that the area’s seven-day rolling average of new cases rose to 9.85 on Sunday, exceeding larger, neighboring jurisdictions, like Montgomery County (9.12) and Howard County (7.41).
On Saturday, 45 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed within the county, the largest single-day spike in over a month.
“If we want to have this balance that we’re trying to strike between health and the economy, we all need to do our part,” Gardner stressed.
In response to the uptick, Gardner said the county will not move forward in expanding capacity for indoor dining, bars, wedding venues, and other food establishments. Governor Larry Hogan had approved an increase in capacity from 50 percent to 75 percent with appropriate distancing, but for Gardner, the number of new cases is concerning.
“Now it makes sense to take a pause on the expansion of openings until our case numbers stabilize and hopefully decline,” Gardner said.
In an effort to help businesses continue outdoor dining at 50-percent capacity, the county is working on a new grant program using CARES Act funding. The program, headed by the office of economic development, would fund the purchase of outdoor heaters and heater fuel.
For the owner of The Wine Kitchen on the Creek, Jason Miller, county grants are helpful but he hopes future solutions are varied.
“We need to have not a solution that solves the program for everyone, but particular solutions. A solution for us is not going to be the same solution for restaurants on Market Street,” Miller said.
A more helpful resource for the restaurant to continue providing outdoor dining through the fall, Miller suggests, is outdoor tents. He explains the wind becomes an issue and that an outdoor tent could help block that.
Gardner adds that the county is planning to speak with local business owners about outdoor dining.
Becoming emotional, she continued to stress that visitors and residents wear masks and maintain social distancing.
“You see me get a little teary-eyed at the thought that I can’t hug my parents, but we make a choice to protect the health of other people that we love,” Gardner explained, “and I need everyone to do that.”
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