Montgomery County restaurants and food service businesses will be allowed to operate with indoor dining at 25 percent capacity starting at 7 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 14, after County Executive Marc Elrich’s Executive Order 19-21AM was approved by the County Council this week. Since December, County restaurants were restricted to only serve outdoors in the County’s efforts to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
The County Executive, in consultation with County health officials, decided to ease restaurant restrictions as the number of new positive cases of COVID-19 has been reduced to an average of less than 200 a day over the past two weeks—similar to numbers last recorded in early November. However, after the holiday season, the number of new cases in the County exceeded more than 600 per day numerous times and for several weeks in January, averaged more than 400 per day.
The number of COVID-19 vaccines being supplied by the State to the County health department, County hospitals and health care services and some private pharmacies is gradually increasing each week. However, the supply still is significantly less than the number of people in COVID Priority Groups 1A (including frontline workers), 1B (including residents 75 and over) and 1C (including residents 65 and over) who are eligible to receive vaccines under current State guidelines.
The County is making progress toward getting vaccinations to the top priority groups. Through Tuesday of this week, more than 22,566 County residents 75 and older have been vaccinated. That is about one-third of the County’s 73,000 residents in that age group.
As more residents are vaccinated, and the number of new COVID cases steadily decreases, the decision was made to allow restaurants to have indoor seating up to 25 percent capacity. The Executive Order will prohibit alcohol sales at the food service businesses after 10 p.m. each night and will limit dining guests to 90 minutes of seating (amended from an original proposal of 60 minutes). County Executive Elrich said that provision would increase turnover of tables to help the businesses, while also limiting exposure of diners to possible COVID infections. Restaurants will be required to get the name and contact information of at least one member of each party in case they are needed for contact tracing if a positive test is recorded of someone in the restaurant.
The State of Maryland is receiving approximately 70,000-80,000 doses per week from the Federal government. As production of the vaccine continues to ramp up, that amount will increase, but it may take some weeks.
Vaccine shipments are sent to providers in Montgomery County, including the County’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS, which is the County health department) and non-County providers (hospitals, health systems and retail pharmacies). Together, the County receives an average of 15,000 doses per week.
Of 15,000 doses sent to the County, DHHS has received as many as 8,500 doses some weeks, but over the past week, it received only 4,500 doses to use in the clinics operated by the County.
Although the State has increased the supply to private pharmacies (Rite Aid, Giant and Safeway) and hospitals/health care systems (Adventist Healthcare, Holy Cross, Kaiser Permanente, Suburban and Medstar Montgomery), the overall the number of weekly doses received in Montgomery County has not increased substantially.
The County is working to make sure distribution of the vaccine is equitable throughout the County. DHHS is studying records of recipients, including zip codes, to make sure an equitable number of vaccines go to residents in areas of the County that may be underserved in receiving vaccines.
Residents can sign up on the vaccine website for weekly vaccine updates. A Vaccine Dashboard, which is operated by the State, is on the site and provides updated information on the distribution of vaccines. The information includes the number of vaccines received and the number distributed.
The dashboard also establishes the priority list for the order of people to receive vaccines in Montgomery County. Additional details on the County’s distribution of COVID-19 vaccines can be found at https://montgomerycountymd.gov/covid19/.
Residents in Priority Groups 1B or 1C who have preregistered on the County’s website and have not yet received a confirmation email should check the spam/junk folder of your email service. If a confirmation email is not in the inbox or the spam/junk folder, preregister again with the correct email address.