PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, Md. — With more new coronavirus cases than ever in Prince George's County, County Executive Angela Alsobrooks announced additional restrictions throughout the county during a news conference Thursday morning.
Starting Wednesday, Dec. 16 at 5 p.m., the following changes will go into effect:
- Indoor dining at restaurants and bars will close
- Outdoor dining must operate at a 50% capacity
- Casinos are now limited to 25% capacity
- Retail establishments are now limited to 25% capacity
The new restrictions on indoor dining, casinos and retail are expected to last through Jan. 16. Alsobrooks said that takeout and curbside service for restaurants will still be available, as she urged Prince Georgians to continue to support local businesses during the pandemic.
"We are headed in the wrong direction and we need to take swift action," Alsobrooks said. "These are not just numbers, but people we love."
So far, 952 Prince Georgians have died of COVID, and nearly 450 new people are contracting the virus in the county every day. Hospital capacity is less than 50% and the positivity rate has hit an alarming 10.7%. State officials added 3,202 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours.
Alsobrooks said much of that growth has come from people who continue holding social gatherings.
“We are now in a position where we are receiving numbers regarding Thanksgiving, and what it’s telling us is that those personal gatherings are very, very dangerous,” Alsobrooks said.
Lanham resident Timothy Saunders lost his grandmother to COVID-19 and struggled with the disease himself.
"I had it, but I'm cured," Saunders said. "It's not like the common cold."
For Saunders, a guard for the D.C. Department of Corrections, the new restrictions make sense.
"People are catching it because of large groups and gatherings," he said. "Safety is the best policy."
With a vaccine rollout approaching, county officials worry many people in the Black community will be reluctant to get it.
"I do have hesitation because of the past history," Saunders said of his willingness to get the vaccine.
Dr. George Askew, the deputy county administrator for health, said when he was a youngster in short pants, his father and grandfather warned him about generations of medical experiments on African Americans. With tears in his eyes, he had to stop to collect himself as he remembered it.
"The voices of these men from slavery to today ring, in my ears," he said.
But he said this time is different.
"When we roll out our vaccine delivery here, we will do so with the confidence that it is in the best interest of the health and well-being of the county," he said.
There is no stay at home order for now, but the County Executive is urging people to only go out for essentials, and to avoid gathering with friends and relatives. She said she'll revisit the restrictions in a month. Alsobrooks is hoping the county is in a better place in January.
The leaders of Maryland’s seven largest counties and Baltimore City issued a joint call on Wednesday for Marylanders to come together for the “final battle” against the coronavirus – even as cases and hospitalizations in the state surge to record highs.
The call came as part of a regular regional Zoom conference between officials in the state’s most populous counties. On Wednesday, however – citing the situation in the state – the call was opened to the press and public.
Along with health officials, on the call were:
- Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman
- Baltimore County Executive John Olszewski
- Baltimore City Mayor Brandon Scott
- Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner
- Harford County Executive Barry Glassman
- Howard County Executive Calvin Ball
- Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich
- Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks
Framing the call was the new record high number of COVID-19 hospitalizations Maryland set on Wednesday – 1,715 people hospitalized in the state for treatment of the coronavirus, including more than 400 in ICU beds.
“We all believe that we’re facing a pivotal moment in what we hope will be the final battle against this virus,” Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman said.
The county leaders, who collectively represent 75% of Maryland’s population, offered a united message for residents: stay strong and continue following restrictions until there’s enough vaccine to go around.
“Even with all we’re doing, the virus is still spreading,” Alsobrooks said. “It is not contained at this point.”