BETHESDA, Md. — After another weekend of large crowds in bars across the country, health officials are sounding the alarm, and some leaders are considering shutting down watering holes again.
In Maryland, the governor is concerned about increasing numbers of coronavirus cases among young adults. D.C.'s mayor wants people to ask themselves if they really need to go out.
The Baltimore Sun reported that health officers in Montgomery, Prince George's, Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Howard counties, along with Baltimore City, have written the state health department asking for renewed restrictions on bars, restaurants and other establishments to curb the recent spike in coronavirus cases.
Pictures of large crowds at pool parties, street parties beaches and bars have been widely shared on social media since localities began slowly easing restrictions.
"If you're worried about it, stay home. If you don't want to catch it, stay home," one shirtless young man at a crowded pool party in the Ozarks said in May.
In Baltimore, three bars posted on social media that they'd had to close earlier this month after workers contracted the virus, but have since reopened.
In Virginia Beach, health data shows the number of cases climbing, and Gov. Ralph Northam (D-Virginia) said too many young adults have been in bars maskless.
In Maryland, there has been a steady rise in the percentage of cases among people younger than 30.
"The infection rate among Marylanders under the age of 35 is now shockingly 52% higher than among those 35 and older," Gov. Larry Hogan (R-Maryland) said earlier this month.
Bars across the region have been reopening under rules to try and slow the spread of infection. But Joshua Sharfstein, MD, a vice dean at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said, "there's clear evidence of bar outbreaks, not only all over the country, but all over the world."
Sharfstein listed a number of factors that make him very concerned about bars.
"First of all, there is alcohol, so people won't necessarily follow what other instructions you're giving them," he said. "Number two, people are drinking, so they can't be wearing masks. Number three, there's music, so they may be shouting. All those things in an enclosed indoor space are risk factors for viral spread."
For now, indoor spaces in Maryland and Virginia, and outdoor spaces in D.C., are open with social distancing, mask requirements and other rules in place.
But Sharfstein warns that if the numbers continue to rise, political leaders may be forced to close bars again.