Montgomery County moves forward with more restrictive Phase 1 reopening

On Friday, the Montgomery County Council voted unanimously to move forward with a more restrictive Phase 1 reopening plan. Montgomery County was the last jurisdiction to announce a set reopening date.

A spokesperson for the council says the vote was not a symbolic gesture. The County Council actually has the authority to make changes to the Executive Order. The unanimous vote means Montgomery County will begin Phase 1 reopening, starting at 6 a.m. Monday, June 1st. 

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In the Friday virtual hearing for the vote on, Councilwoman Nancy Navarro immediately said she was appalled by the behavior and language used by the hecklers who repeatedly interrupted County Executive Marc Elrich’s Thursday Phase 1 announcement

Two members of the “Reopen Montgomery County, MD” Facebook group described the event as unfortunate – for BOTH sides. 

Sue Seboda, a “Reopen Montgomery County, MD” member, is looking at various metrics and is still asking why the whole county is being restricted if a disproportionate number of deaths were suffered within the county’s nursing and senior facilities. 

RELATED: Montgomery County Exec greeted with slurs and boos during June 1 phase one reopening announcement

Seboda testified in the Friday virtual hearing, calling for the county to follow Governor Hogan’s Phase 1 plan instead. 

“It’s very condescending to say you’re not a doctor so there for your opinion is not relevant. I don’t ‘think that’s right. I think it’s right to say, “Hey that kind of - maybe that makes sense but hey Sue, maybe there’s some other things you need to think about,” said Seboda, responding to one of Elrich’s answers at the raucous Thursday news conference. 

She and others also questioned why big-box retailers like Target and Walmart can have shoppers inside but struggling businesses cannot. County councilmembers, who were all consulted about the county executive’s reopening plan, say this an “outdoor focused” Phase 1 reopening plan. 

“People’s livelihood are at stake and there has been a growing sense of emotional and economic despair that you can feel, that we’ve received in constituent calls and concerns. That, of course, has to be balanced with the fact that this virus is just as deadly and just as contiguous as it was when it first came to our community back in March,” said Health and Human Services Committee Chair, Councilmember Gabe Albornoz

“The huge problem in this county now, I think increasingly is, essential workers -  their families and it’s continuing to spread in those context, especially like we’re seeing around the country - somehow picking it up and bringing it home from work and it’s still a problem” said At-large Councilmember Hans Riemer. 

While restaurants may be able to open outdoor dining, not all restaurants have the patio space to do so. 

RELATED: Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan lays out 'Road to Recovery' plan

On Friday, Councilmember Riemer told FOX 5 the county is considering a few areas in Germantown, Silver Spring, and Bethesda where they would close streets to create what’s known “StrEateries.”

This is a concept were tables and chairs are placed in large areas like parking lots or closed-off streets, to promote an outdoor (dining) experience. The hope people would still be able to social distance – and patron struggling restaurants a little more. 

The Montgomery County’s Department of Transportation is calling it their “Shared Streets” initiative and on Friday, asked for the community’s input on what to do with sidewalks, parking lots and streets. 

County leaders are eyeing Norfolk Ave from Fairmont to Del Ray as one of the possible places in Bethsda to close down a street for outdoor use. 

“MCDOT has been assisting [the Bethesda Urban Partnership] with the plans. The date of when the closures will be implemented, and the duration of that plan, have not yet been determined,” part of the Friday announcement reads.

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