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Montgomery County tightens COVID-19 restrictions on bars, restaurants, sports

The new rules go into effect Wednesday, Aug. 5.

BETHESDA, Md. — There are new rules in Montgomery County placing restrictions on bars, food courts and even the type of sports kids can play. 

County Executive Mark Erlich amended a previously issued order to try and slow the spread of COVID-19. Starting Wednesday, Aug. 5, bars and restaurants will have to stop serving alcohol at 10 p.m.   

"Why isn't it midnight, why isn't it none at all? Why choose 10 o'clock?” one Bethesda resident questioned. “I don't really get it."  

But another woman who works in the entertainment industry said it makes sense. 

“That cutoff at 10 sounds like an industry time when dinner is over, drinks are wrapped up, and this is when people should safely be heading home,” she said.

“I'm less comfortable with blanket rules like that and more comfortable with enhanced targeted enforcement," County Council Member Tom Hucker said at Tuesday’s council hearing. 

Despite reservations, the County Council unanimously approved the executive order. Here's what else is on the list:

The executive order states meals must be carry-out only, so eating in food courts is not allowed. 

RELATED: Montgomery Co. private school parents push back after county’s decision to prohibit reopenings

All high-risk sports are banned in Montgomery County. According to the Maryland Sports Commission Return to Play Report, that means sports like basketball, football, competitive cheer and hockey are out. Low and medium-risk sports including gymnastics and soccer are still ok for now.  

“Did we not just have a conversation about kids congregating on a soccer field, but now we want to say its OK for them to congregate in school?" Council Member Craig Rice asked. 

The stricter orders come just one day after critics said Gov. LarryHogan loosened restrictions on some schools by stripping the county's power to keep private and independent schools closed.

RELATED: Governor Hogan issues emergency order to allow Maryland private schools to reopen

The governor said this is to ensure schools and school systems will have the primary authority to determine when to safely reopen schools for in-person instruction. ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Gov. Larry Hogan issued an amended emergency order on Monday that will effectively ban counties from "blanket school closures" and allow private and parochial schools to have the power to keep schools open or move them online.

“Yes, we've plateaued and we’re at a place better than others - and that is a good place to be," County Health Officer D. Travis Gayles said. "But it’s not where we need to be in terms of low to moderate community transmission so we can move on with some of the activities on the list.”  

According to Gayles, low risk would be eight cases a day, while moderate risk would be 20-30 cases a day. The executive order also requires houses of worship in Montgomery County to apply for a waiver if they plan to have more than 150 people attending a religious service outdoors.

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