February 3, 2021

COVID-19 Updates: New Executive Order Would Allow Indoor Dining in Restaurants; Vaccines Being Distributed as They Arrive

Montgomery County restaurants would be allowed to operate with indoor dining at 25 percent capacity if County Executive Marc Elrich’s proposed Executive Order 19-21 is approved by the County Council. Currently, County restaurants are currently restricted to only serve outdoors in the County’s efforts to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

The County Council is scheduled to vote on the Executive Order at its meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 9. If the Executive Order is approved, it would go into effect at 5 p.m. on Tuesday.

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 week—similar to numbers last recorded in early November. However, after the holiday season, the number of new cases in the County was averaging more than 600 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, County Executive Elrich said at his weekly news conference on Wednesday that the supply still is greatly outnumbered by 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) that are eligible to receive vaccines under current State guidelines.

In addition to allowing restaurants to have indoor seating up to 25 percent capacity, the Executive Order would prohibit alcohol sales at the food service businesses after 10 p.m. each night. The order would limit dining guests to one hour of seating. 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 would 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.

County Executive Elrich said the County—including all of its healthcare partners—received a total of 12,275 new vaccines this week. He said about 25 percent of the County’s residents 75 and over have received their first vaccines. He also said that the County is working to make sure distribution of the vaccine is equitable throughout the County. The County’s Department of Health and Human Services 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 on the site 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 montgomerycountymd.gov/covid19/vaccine.