The end of most COVID-19 restrictions is near for Montgomery County residents.
At 6 a.m. on May 28, nearly all restrictions will be lifted, after the county met its threshold on Friday of 50% of residents having received all required dosages of the COVID-19 vaccine.
In April the County Council approved a three-phase reopening plan based on the percentage of county residents that have been vaccinated. Under the third phase, the county reverts to any requirements currently in place at the state level.
This week Gov. Larry Hogan lifted all restrictions on bars, restaurants, entertainment venues and other facilities starting Saturday. Hogan also announced on Friday that he was lifting the state’s indoor mask requirement, although masks must still be worn in public transportation, health care facilities and schools for anyone older than five.
Local jurisdictions have been allowed to set their own timetable for easing COVID-19 restrictions, and Montgomery County has consistently kept more stringent restrictions in place.
To reach the third phase, 50% of Montgomery County residents had to be fully vaccinated – meaning that it has been two weeks since someone received the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or the one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Two weeks is the amount of time that the Centers for Disease Control estimates is required for the body to build protection against the virus.
County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles wrote in a memo to County Council President Tom Hucker and Council Vice President Gabe Albornoz that as of Friday the county had reached its 50% benchmark.
Under the county’s Board of Health regulation, the reopening takes effect at 6 a.m. on May 28, which is two weeks after Friday’s benchmark was reached, council spokeswoman Sonya Healy wrote in an email to Bethesda Beat.
In an interview on Saturday, Healy said the county expects to move to phase two in the coming week. Under this phase, gathering limits would increase to 250 indoors, most businesses could operate at 75% capacity and smoking would be allowed at cigar and hookah bars, among other elements of the plan.
Montgomery County added 24 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday and has had 70,466 cases since the pandemic started more than a year ago. The county has added fewer than 100 cases for 16 straight days.
The county added one confirmed fatality from the virus on Saturday, bringing the death toll to 1,488.
There also have been 46 “probable” deaths. “Probable” deaths have the coronavirus listed as the cause of death on certificates but have not been confirmed by laboratory tests yet.
Dan Schere can be reached at email@example.com