MARYLAND (WMAL) – The wait is almost over for Prince George’s County residents. County executive Angela Alsobrooks said Thursday the county will be moving into Phase I of reopening on Monday, June 1, which includes lifting the stay-at-home order and allowing more businesses to open with restrictions.
“I feel very comfortable that we are ready for Phase I. We set out the criteria that we would use including those metrics about hospitalizations, and, you’ve heard that the infection rate has declined,” Alsobrooks said at a news conference Thursday morning.
On May 8, Alsobrooks said the county was not ready to move into Phase I with other parts of the state on May 15 because it had the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 deaths in the state of Maryland and had not met the metrics required for reopening.
“We’ve come a long way in the last two to three weeks. We’ve flattened and now reducing the curve,” Prince George’s County Chief Health Officer Dr. Ernest Young said Thursday.
Gov. Larry Hogan’s Maryland Strong Roadmap to Recovery Plan includes increased contact tracing, testing, surge capacity at hospitals and more PPE. Thursday Alsobrooks said by next week the number of contact tracers would go from 50 to 150.
As of June 1st an additional testing site would open along with others June 8 and 15. She said with the combination of state, local and private testing, the county would be able to test at least 9,000 people a week. She said essential workers will be able to get tested regardless of whether they have symptoms.
Alsobrooks said they now have the ability to have 40% of ICU bed space. It had been up to 80% at one point and is now at 60%.
She said they got extra gowns, gloves and masks from the national strategic stockpile. Last week the state sent 160,000 isolation gowns to the county Alsobrooks added.
Alsobrooks said they are also seeing fewer new cases and deaths, even though the numbers remain high. The week of April 26 they saw a peak of 2,370 new cases. Since then it has declined to 2,000 cases a week according to Carter. During the week of May 10 the county saw a 13.5% decrease in the total number of cases.
The death rate has also dropped. Three weeks ago 70 people were dying a week, according to Alsobrooks, while now 60 are dying.
“The loss of life from this virus has been terrible, and it is still a great concern for all of us,” Alsobrooks said.
Carter said the percentage of tests coming back positive was more than 40% three weeks ago and is now 20%.
The closure of non-essential businesses and the effect on the economy has been of great concern to residents and county officials. Phase I will allow more parts of the economy to start reopening.
June 1st the stay-at-home order will be lifted. Non-essential retailers will be able to offer curbside service. Barber shops and hair salons will be able to open by appointment only and at limited capacity. Employees and customers will be required to wear PPE. Restaurants will be able to open outdoor sections for dine-in with a maximum of six people at tables, and the tables will be spaced six-feet apart. Houses of worship can open for gatherings of 10 people or fewer. Child care facilities will open for people returning to work.
During Phase I people will still be required to wear masks at indoor public places and on public transit.
“You need to stay at home as much as possible. Do not get complacent. Stay disciplined. Stay safe” Carter said.
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