Montgomery County could reopen indoor dining, pending ‘OK’ from council

Maryland

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. (WDVM) — Restaurants in Montgomery County could soon begin seating patrons indoors again. On Tuesday, County Executive Marc Elrich sent an executive order to the council for a vote, which calls for restaurants to allow indoor dining at 25 percent capacity, while also establishing new dining restrictions, like time limits.

Montgomery County officials last shut down indoor dining before the holiday season, and Elrich now cites metrics trending in the right direction for the push to reopen restaurants.

On January 12, Montgomery County reported about 49 cases per 100,000 residents. On Wednesday, that number had dropped to 26.7 cases per 100,000 residents.

Along with reopening indoor dining at restaurants, the executive order imposes a one-hour time limit on those dining indoors and continues the ban on alcohol sales and consumption on-site after 10 p.m. The order also says restaurants will have to enforce mask-wearing by patrons at their tables “when they are not actively eating or drinking.”

“We are balancing the interest of public health and economics,” said Dr. Earl Stoddard, director of the county’s Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security. “That still doesn’t make it safe or encouraged. Just because something is permitted doesn’t make it a good idea.”

The county council is expected to take vote on the order soon. Some councilmembers have already said they will not support reopening or lifting of restrictions right now.

“I feel like I’m in the twilight zone here,” said councilmember Will Jawando on Tuesday. “The numbers are going down, that’s great. So, why would we go backwards with what we’re trying to do? I won’t support it and I don’t think we should.”

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