Health officials in Maryland, Montgomery County reveal how contact tracing determines COVID-19 restrictions

Many businesses and retail establishments are trying to keep up with ongoing changes as the number of COVID-19 cases nationwide continue to go up.

This week, officials in Maryland and Montgomery County, both implemented even tighter restrictions on capacity limits within restaurants, bars, salons, houses of worship and gyms.

READ MORE: Maryland debuts COVID-19 alert app

“Our contact tracers have seen an increase in folks who had been participating in late-night dining and alcohol consumption and in the activities of when they leave those places that leads to large congregations,” Montgomery County Councilman At-Large, Will Jawando. 

Montgomery County leaders went ahead and cut the 50 percent capacity into half and Maryland went from 75 percent to 50 percent capacity. 

“We have seen widespread community spread and when you have that, that in of itself says that you should have a more aggressive approach, so I think the areas where we are seeing this is in the restaurant setting, large gatherings which is why we reduced that size.”

READ MORE: Montgomery County implements tighter restrictions, asks state to do more with COVID-19 guidance

According to Clifford Mitchell, Director of the Environmental Health Bureau at the Maryland Department of Health, contact tracing whether it’s at the state level or at the county level is essentially the same.

He said the procedure itself doesn’t yield where someone was infected, rather it’s what kind of activities people are doing.

He said statewide health officials have noticed that social gatherings like weddings and parties where people are together for longer periods of time in and close quarters has been a contributing factor in the rise in cases.

READ MORE: Is Maryland going into Phase 1 Thursday? Hogan’s office says rumors are not true

On Wednesday, Gov. Larry Hogan released information that hospitalizations are going up. The state is in its 8th straight day of more than 1,000 cases. 

“The closer people are to each other for the longer period of time and particularly without facial maskings, the more likely they are to be exposed to all of the activities that we are looking at or settings where people may be spending a fair amount of time together, in close contact either with or often without facial coverage,” said Mitchell.

“As the weather has changed, we have seen reports of people doing more indoor dining, another is travel and so we have seen people reporting an increased amount of travel over the last couple of weeks.”

Some bar and restaurant operators in MontgomeryCounty tell Fox 5’s Ayesha Khan that whether the restrictions are capped at 75, 50 or 25 percent capacity, at this point it’s just having to follow those rules and guidelines.

But many of them have implemented their own, if not much stricter protocols such as no standing at the bar area, keeping their tables six-feet apart and putting a time limit on how long patrons can sit and dine in. 

“This has effected us more so in Montgomery County but I do see how the county has more higher cases which I guess is better safe than sorry,” said bartender, Susie Lee.

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