With coronavirus cases in the region rising steeply throughout November, Prince George’s authorities said the hard-hit county could ill afford to allow dangerous conditions for even one day of shopping.
“We are unable to wait a few days for businesses to fix issues,” said Daryl Sims, a program manager for the compliance team. “You have to fix it now.”
The county had stepped up enforcement even before the Thanksgiving holiday. Among the businesses that were closed last weekend because of issues with mask-wearing and social distancing were Gold’s Gym at Ritchie Station and Sport Fit Bowie, Sims said; both submitted corrective plans and reopened Wednesday.
On the night before Thanksgiving, three compliance teams in Gaithersburg, Bethesda and Silver Spring found no major violations during more than 90 inspections, said Earl Stoddard, Montgomery County’s head of emergency management.
“That was pretty good,” Stoddard said. “But the big challenge that we are facing is that we have far more restaurants and retailers than people to do inspections. We can’t be everywhere in every store all at once.”
Stoddard encouraged residents to report concerns about specific facilities. Last weekend, Stoddard said, a house party with more than 100 people was shut down in Poolesville. This weekend, compliance teams will focus on high-density areas including retail and bars.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced extra enforcement measures throughout the state this week as a way of confronting surging cases of the virus. In D.C., Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) imposed new restrictions on restaurants, gyms and group gatherings just before the Thanksgiving holiday in response to metrics that met the city’s red-flag criteria showing the pandemic taking a turn for the worse.
Maryland reported 2,378 new coronavirus cases Friday, Virginia reported 1,544 new cases, and D.C. reported 201. Thirty-seven people died of the virus in the region, authorities reported Friday — 22 in Maryland and 15 in Virginia, with D.C. reporting no deaths.