- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 1, 2020

Maryland is now allowing child care facilities to fully open and the resumption of in-person visits at nursing homes that haven’t had a coronavirus outbreak or new cases for the past 14 days.

Gov. Larry Hogan said Thursday that all 227 nursing homes in the state are on track to receive rapid antigen tests next week, prompting him to greenlight in-person visits for nursing home residents. However, jurisdictions with test positivity rates above 10% will not be able to allow indoor visits.

“Our new state efforts allow for more flexibility for compassionate care visits to support residents who need emotional and spiritual support,” the Republican governor said.

State officials also are easing restrictions on child care facilities, allowing them to serve at a capacity for which they are licensed. This means that child care facilities can have up to 20 children ages 3 and 4 with a ratio of 1 teacher to 10 students, or 30 school-aged students with a ratio of 1 teacher to 15 students.

“With most school systems remaining in a virtual learning or hybrid model, we understand the demand for child care remains very high,” said state schools Superintendent Karen Salmon.

Across Maryland, very few positive coronavirus cases have been reported from the more than 82% of child care facilities that have opened, Ms. Salmon said. Even when officials allowed child care facilities to serve up to 15 children in June, up from 10, the state reportedly did not see spikes in cases.

Mr. Hogan touted the state’s health metrics, noting that Maryland reported no new COVID-19 deaths for the first time since March 28 and the decline in hospitalizations and cases per 100,000.

More than 3,800 residents have died from the coronavirus, health department data shows, and the coronavirus has infected more than 125,500. The state is reporting a 2.88% test positivity rate.

Also on Thursday, the Montgomery County Council voted 8 to 1 to pass an amended executive order that allows food service venues with no previous history of citations or closings due to COVID-19 violations to apply for a permit to serve alcohol from 10 p.m. to midnight.

To receive a permit, a food service venue must designate a staff member or hire a contractor to monitor and enforce face covering and social distance requirements, guarantee all alcoholic beverages are collected from patrons and off all tables by midnight and suspend the sale or provision of alcoholic beverages after midnight.

The only council member to oppose the amended order was Hans Riemer, who said he felt the county was accelerating reopening certain services that aren’t highest priority while not targeting establishments that are more critical such as schools.

Venues granted a late-night alcohol sales permit will be subject to frequent and unscheduled inspections. Establishments that violate permit requirements will immediately lose their permit and license to sell alcohol and could face fines up to $20,000.

However, officials will automatically suspend the late-night alcohol sales program if Montgomery County’s three-day test positivity average surpasses 3.25%, three-day average of confirmed COVID-19 cases exceeds 100, the COVID-19 positive contacts associated with indoor and outdoor dining is greater than 3% combined and more than 10% of inspected participants receive a citation, permit revocation and order to close.

In addition, the Montgomery County Board of Elections outlined for the council its safety plans at voting centers. Eleven centers will open Oct. 26 for early voting from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. On Nov. 3, 25 high schools and the Montgomery County Conference Center at Marriott Bethesda North and White Oak Community Recreation Center will open for in-person voting.

Voters who don’t have a mask at voting centers will be offered one, board President James Shalleck said. Voters who refuse to wear a mask will have to vote outside the center.

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