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Montgomery County officials propose additional coronavirus restrictions as cases increase; vote delayed

A vote on the proposal has been delayed until Tuesday, Nov. 10.

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. — Coronavirus restrictions could soon be tightened in Montgomery County after County Executive Marc Elrich issued a new executive order that would re-impose pandemic-related restrictions as the county's coronavirus infections have increased over the last few weeks. 

The county council originally said it would vote on the proposals Thursday, but has since delayed a vote until Tuesday, Nov. 10. 

The new order would limit gathering sizes to 25 people and limit capacity for restaurants, retail establishments and religious facilities to 25%.

The county's proposed order will also cut off carry-out and delivery services from restaurants at 10 p.m. 

As was the case with preliminary phase two reopening rules, alcohol must be cleared from the tables at 10 p.m. However, per the executive order, restaurants can still apply for a late night extension, like before.

The biggest change would require restaurants to keep a daily record of indoor and outdoor dining customers for at least 30 days to assist with contact tracing. The information collected by restaurants would include names, contact information along with the date and time that each customer visited.

“We haven’t really been doing more than (25%) anyway because of six-foot distance," All Set Restaurant and Bar's general manager, Molly Horn, said.

Horn said the Silver Spring restaurant has been approaching reopening with extra caution, typically operating one step behind the county.

Horn said they've tried to implement their own contact tracing throughout the pandemic, but they've struggled to get 100% compliance from customers.

“We have asked people to fill out the contact tracing that we have on the back of our menu. Now unfortunately people forget or they opt not to," she said. "We’re just trying to do the right thing, and kind of having the law if you will on your side, it makes it easier to do that.”

WUSA 9 asked a handful of people in Silver Spring how they feel about providing their contact information to every restaurant -- and overall they said they were on board.

“If it can help prevent, eliminate, or decrease the spread of the coronavirus, I’m fine with it," Sheria Wooden said.

“I've got nothing to hide," Joseph Gagnon said. "I’m okay with it.”

Gagnon's main concern was for businesses facing even more restrictions when many have struggled to survive during the pandemic.

“If it makes it hard for the restauranteur, then it’s going to be bad for business, bad for Silver Spring, Montgomery County," Gagnon said.

Horn, however, thinks winter -- not these new restrictions -- will be their biggest problem.

“We’ll soon be most likely going back to mostly people ordering delivery and takeout, which is great," she said. "But it’s hard to keep a full staff employed with that."

Read the full proposed executive order by Montgomery County officials below:

Maryland reported 1,000 new cases of the coronavirus Wednesday, the first time it has been at or above the 1,000 marks in a single day since August 1. As of Wednesday, 595 patients were being treated in the state’s hospitals for the virus. 

Maryland’s average percent positivity for coronavirus tests continues rising for all age groups. Those above and below 35 have seen an increase of one percentage point to their average test positivity over the past week. 

The state is now averaging above a 4% average positivity rate for the first time since August.

County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles said Thursday daily COVID-19 transmission rates are the highest they've been since the summer.

“The longer we wait to implement these restrictions and guidelines, we run the risk of increasing the cases even more," said County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles.  

The office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security traces positive cases to large gatherings in the county.  According to the county's contact tracing data, 35% of cases are linked to family gatherings, 23% to houses of worship. That's why county leaders want to reduce gatherings from 50 to 25 people. 

"We're having a lot of problems in our ‘streeteries’ with people taking alcohol off property and breaking all social distancing and mask wearing requirements,” said Dr. Earl Stoddard the Director of the County’s Emergency Management office. 

"We are stuck between a rock and a hard place," said Councilmember Gabe Albornoz. "I just want the public to know we hear you. We feel your pain authentically sincerely, and deeply.”

The council also discussed limiting capacity at day care centers but realizes facilities need notice beforehand. The county executive will submit an updated executive order by COB Friday which will include a date the proposed changes will take effect.  The council will then hold a public hearing and vote Tuesday November 10.

RELATED: Coronavirus updates: Maryland reports 1,000 new cases in a day for first time in months

RELATED: Gov. Hogan: Maryland's state of emergency renewed

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