UPPER MARLBORO, Md. - While promising COVID-19 data permitted much of Maryland to enter phase one of the reopening process last week, Prince George’s County was one of the jurisdictions that opted to extend its stay-at-home order.
On Thursday, the county announced that it would extend its order through June 1.
Despite the devastating impact the restrictions prompted by COVID-19 have had on the local economy – 70,000 residents have applied for unemployment since March 15 – County Executive Angela Alsobrooks says officials simply are not seeing the kind of data that would enable them to reopen the county safely.
According to Alsobrooks, the county is still registering nine deaths per day attributed to the novel coronavirus – which also became the county’s number one killer last week.
In addition, while the rest of Maryland is seeing a drop in hospitalizations due to the virus, Prince George’s County’s hospitalization rate is still on the rise.
“We are, out of an abundance of caution, making sure that before we open, we can, really give, in good conscience, give the public the idea that they can gather safely even in these small spaces – retail spaces and other things. So we’re working to make sure that we can reopen. Making sure that we have the right amount of resources that we need – test kits, and making sure that we have contact tracers and PPE in place. We want to reopen as well. But we want to make sure that, in doing so, people don’t become more ill and that more people don’t die as a result of it,” Alsobrooks told FOX 5’s Allison Seymour on Monday.
The largest concentration of COVID-19 cases in the DMV has been centered on the District – and densely populated suburbs of Maryland and Northern Virginia that orbit the nation’s capital.
Prince George’s County and Montgomery County account for just over half of the cases in the state of Maryland, with 19,522 between them.
Prince George’s County has 11,316 cases.
Alsobrooks explained that the county’s geographical location makes it a prime area for the virus, describing it as the gateway for both the District and Northern Virginia.
She also explained that the county boasts a high percentage of essential workers, noting that 70 percent of the county’s population is still going to work every day.
“We have a lot of movement, and our geographic location makes it more difficult to see our numbers come down, so that is the reason you see a coordination not only with Montgomery County but I can also tell you that we’ve been in conversation with Washington, D.C. and they’ve been wonderful partners to us, to make sure that we are working in concert together, making sure we are sharing information so that we can keep all of our residents safe and stop the spread of this virus,” she said.
Alsobrooks assures residents that the county wants to reopen when it’s safe to do so, noting that the economic impact is taking its toll not only on the jurisdiction proper, but also the state of Maryland and DMV region.
“As you know, Prince George’s County is the economic engine for Maryland. We’ve created more jobs over the past five years consecutively than any jurisdiction in the state of Maryland. Prince George’s and Montgomery County comprise 40 percent of the state’s economy,” she said.
But the county executive is confident they’ll bounce back.
“Prince George’s County was on a tremendous trajectory, and we expect to be able to rebuild that there,” she said.