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Prince George’s County announces new restrictions on social gatherings, capacity limits on bars and restaurants

Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks announced on Thursday new guidelines on indoor and outdoor gatherings, and reductions on bars and restaurant capacity.

The county is limiting outdoor gatherings to one person or family per 250 square feet, with a maximum of 25 people at outdoor locations, which includes sporting events.

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The limit on social gatherings indoors is down to 10 people. Family gatherings and parties have contributed the most to the spread of COVID-19, Alsobrooks said. Gyms will remain open with only 25% capacity. Bowling alleys are considered risky to the county but will remain open and also will have a maximum of 25% capacity and no more than 50 people.

Restaurants and bars are limited to 25% capacity indoors, down from 50%, and is now 50% for outdoors.

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Essential stores, like grocery stores and pharmacies, are limited to 50% capacity. Large retail stores will still be allowed to operate at 50% capacity.

“We understand these stores are essential but we need better enforcement,” Alsobrooks said. “We have noticed the stores are full of people and I go to these stores and I am concerned.”

The new restrictions will take place on Sunday at 5.p.m. Prince George’s County joins other populated areas of Maryland with stricter restrictions than those imposed by the state. Baltimore City has announced a movement back to Phase 1 and Anne Arundel County made a similar announcement on Thursday.

Harford County announced that county facilities would close to the public, including indoor parks and recreation facilities. Organized outdoor activities on county fields, including sports tournaments, will be suspended, although county parks will remain open. County employees will be authorized to telework until further notice.

Starting on Tuesday, in Montgomery County, restaurants, gyms, museums, retail establishments and religious facilities were all limited to 25% capacity. For other businesses, such as bowling alleys and hair and nail salons, capacity is limited to 25% or 25 people, whichever is lower. Gatherings of more than 25 people are prohibited.

Face coverings are now required outdoors — unless exercising — as well as indoors, “We want the mask on all the time and above your nose," Alsobrooks said.

“We really need to hunker down. that is the message of the day,” Alsobrooks added. “We are in the midst of another surge.”

Alsobrooks also spoke about the National Harbor and how it is unacceptable for parents to drop off children unaccompanied to the harbor to hangout.

Prince George’s County Health Officer Dr. Ernest Carter told citizens to take charge of their health and said, “We will win this match but how long it takes is up to us.”

The health officer is urging people not to host or attend holiday gatherings this year. Carter said it is not the time. Attending family gatherings and house parties are the leading high risk activity reported by people with virus.

The county stands at 35,434 confirmed cases since March and 865 deaths. During the first week of November, the county saw 1,309 new cases, which is up from a recent low in the last full week of September of 649.

Carter is concerned about the rapid increase in numbers. Last week, the county saw a 20% increase in new cases. In four consecutive weeks, the number of new cases has gone up, Carter said.

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The infection rate, the average number of people each person that tests positive is infecting, increased to 1.15 and now the county is in high risk. As of Nov. 7, the average daily case rate has increased to 20.6 per day per 100k residents, the ideal number is below 10.

Carter said the county is in the high risk category of COVID spread, which means the “community spread has accelerated and is at dangerous levels.” If the daily case rate gets to 25, would move the county into critical category in terms of COVID transmission.

“We aren’t there yet, but we are headed that way and need to keep that in mind,” Carter said. “If you leave your house, you are in public and need to have a mask on.”

Baltimore Sun reporter Christine Condon contributed to this article.

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