GAITHERSBURG (WMAL) – Montgomery County’s moving into Phase I of reopening on Monday, June 1, but that isn’t enough for angry protesters some of whom heckled the county executive at an outdoor press conference Thursday, making for some testing exchanges.
“Excuse me, the Constitution has no phases,” one protester said prompting others to cheer. Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich then uttered “moron” under his breath, which could be heard on the microphone.
“Open the whole county,” another protester screamed.
Standing between restaurants at the popular Kentlands shopping complex in Gaithersburg with protesters feet away, Elrich announced that starting at 6 Monday morning bars and restaurants in Montgomery County will be able to open outdoor seating areas. Elrich said a lot of the restaurants don’t have enough outdoor seating on sidewalks to make it worthwhile to reopen, so the county is looking for opportunities to close streets to increase outdoor seating.
Phase I will also allow retails to offer curbside service. Childcare facilities can open to take care of children whose parents are essential employees or required to return to work as part of Phase I reopening. Car washes can open for exterior cleaning only. Outdoor day camps and youth sports can open following Maryland Department of Health Guidelines.
The crowd became angry when Elrich said hair salons and barber shops will be able to open but not offer haircuts. When confronted at the end, he said he misspoke. Haircuts will be allowed for customers who make appointments. Manicures and pedicures will not be allowed.
Houses of worship can do outdoor services only.
“Freedom of religion,” protesters yelled. Another asked why you could eat in a restaurant – to which Elrich said you can’t – when you can’t go to a church. Some said it should be up to pastors to decide what to do at their houses of worship.
“Pastor’s aren’t doctors,” Elrich said.
The county’s health director, Dr. Travis Gayles, was called a liar by protesters who questioned where he got his numbers from.
When asked about the metrics being used to determine how to move forward, Gayles said they would continue to look at the same metrics they are looking at now. One metric that allowed the county to move into Phase I was a decrease in the percentage of tests coming back positive from 32% on April 7 to 15% on May 27.
“As numbers continue to improve, consistent with the approach that the governor has taken, and consistent with the approach of jurisdictions across this country, we will look at activities that are lower risk,” Gayles said when asked when other things will reopen.
Swimming pools, senior centers, fitness center, movie theaters, shopping malls and nail salons remain closed in Phase I.
Gayles said Phase II in other parts of the state includes increased capacity for restaurants and retail spaces, and allowing larger groups to gather in public or private.
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