Montgomery County has yet to announce COVID-19 plans after Maryland governor orders Friday capacity lift
ROCKVILLE, Md. (FOX 5 DC) - We expected today to find out whether Montgomery and Prince George's counties planned to go along with Maryland Governor Larry Hogan's easing of capacity restrictions throughout the state on Friday evening.
Prince George's County leaders made announcements Thursday but in Montgomery County, it's once again a waiting game after officials abruptly canceled a briefing.
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Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks said the county will increase capacity limits for all businesses to 50% beginning Friday, March 12 at 5 p.m.
This includes indoor dining, gyms and houses of worship.
Montgomery County leaders were expected to make a Thursday announcement on whether they would follow Maryland Governor Larry Hogan's plan come 5 p.m. Friday.
Once FOX 5 logged onto the Zoom call, we were told the meeting had been canceled.
READ MORE: Maryland to lift capacity limits for indoor, outdoor dining on Friday
Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich’s Spokesperson Barry Hudson the meeting was postponed until Friday when Elrich will now meet with the Montgomery County Council.
The council will be acting as the Board of Health, which in that capacity does have the ability to enact COVID-19 safety measures.
"P.S., I agree with public health experts who are saying that certain aspects of Governor Hogan's re-opening order are several weeks premature for Montgomery County. I'm working with colleagues on a phasing plan now," said Montgomery County Councilmember Hans Reimer in an emailed memo to the community Thursday afternoon.
On Thursday evening, Elrich released the video above and shared a statement, saying, in part:
"Here in Montgomery County, our situation is improving, but our situation is still precarious and we should not jeopardize it. I am not inclined to follow the guidance of the Governor’s newly appointed health adviser, who was an integral part of the Trump Administration’s COVID response team. We have been patient for the past 12 months, and we have managed to have some of the lowest rates of infection. This is not the time for reckless behavior."
READ MORE: Maryland lays out plan to address vaccine equity in the state
Hogan's announcement on Tuesday that the state would lift capacity limits on places like businesses, churches, and gyms took local leaders across the state by surprise.
FOX 5 was told the decision sent some of them scrambling, trying to figure out what localities can do in their own jurisdictions.
Originally, there was confusion on whether the governor's executive order would even allow county leaders to still implement their own local restrictions, FOX 5's Stephanie Ramirez reports.
Mike Ricci, a spokesperson for Gov. Hogan, affirmed once more, localities could in fact do so.
However, several local leaders and officials tell FOX 5, the executive order's language still ends all local restrictions at 5 p.m. Friday. This means any counties wishing to keep certain restrictions in place, would need to re-implement their own measures.
Anne Arundel's county executive said this can be problematic for a county like Montgomery County, which cannot implement a county executive order until that order is approved by the county council.
READ MORE: Montgomery County may open its own mass vaccination without Maryland's support, county exec says
With previous executive orders issued, Elrich would unveil his executive order during the week and the county council would vote to approve the following week.
County sources told FOX 5 their leaders spent the day meeting with attorneys on Wednesday to see what actions Montgomery County could take to ensure their local restrictions won't expire this weekend — or whether the county council can take action.
Howard County Executive Calvin Ball announced on Wednesday Howard County will align with the governor's plans.
"We will continue watching our data very closely over the next two weeks and if aligning with the Governor's decision is detrimental to the health and welfare of our residents, we will not hesitate to reimpose restrictions," Ball wrote in a statement.
Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman told FOX 5 they are also aligning with the governor's guidance, however, he will keep social gathering restrictions, which are limited to 10 indoors and 25 outdoors, in place.
"At this point, we're close enough to the end of this thing that I just don't believe, in our case, that it's really worth the fight and worth all of the confusion and all of the divisiveness that it causes when a county goes a separate direction. And it's really difficult and complicated for the businesses as well," Pittman told FOX 5 on Wednesday.