WHITE PLAINS, Md. — Charles County plans to move toward Stage 1 and reopen on Friday. County Commissioners were expected to discuss additional details on what the plan looks like during a special meeting Thursday.
A reopening plan for businesses, houses of worship, and personal services in the county was discussed Tuesday, as the county's reopening plan will be in accordance with Maryland Gov. Hogan’s Roadmap to Recovery, county officials said.
"Charles County is now ready to fully move to stage 1 in Maryland's road map to recovery," Charles County Commissioner President Reuben B. Collins said.
Charles County officials said they reached the decision to reopen on May 29 after receiving information and data from the Charles County Health Department, Department of Emergency Services, and other local leaders.
"The health and safety of our customers and businesses is our number one priority," Tom Blandford, Chair of the Charles County Chamber of Commerce said. "Strong businesses make strong communities."
County leaders said that Stage 1 will be executed with Gov. Hogan's three-stage recovery plan:
Stage 1: Maryland will lift the stay at home order and allow the reopening of many small businesses. Other community activities that are low risk -- like recreational fishing and elective surgeries -- will resume. Local governments like individual counties can have the flexibility to open up other things, such as parks and playgrounds and libraries with safety protocols in place.
One of the requirements to start Stage 1 is a 14-day decline in reported cases.
Stage 2: Will occur if there is no spike in deaths or sustained spike for ICU cases, as well as no additional significant community transmissions. This would include even more businesses reopening, and non-essential workers who can't rely on teleworking returning back to their jobs.
There would still be limits on social gatherings, but transit schedules like the Metro would return to normal. Indoor religious gatherings would be allowed with limited capacity, and restaurants and bars would be able to reopen with some safety protocols.
Stage 3: More "high-risk" activities like large social gatherings and high-capacity bars/restaurants would be allowed to open, loosening up restrictions on visits to other places like nursing homes and entertainment venues. Large scale religious gatherings would be allowed as well.
While County leaders are eager to reopen, many Charles County residents, however, are anxious to reopen the county.
Following a special meeting on May 14 to respond to Gov. Larry Hogan's reopening order to allow local jurisdictions to decide if they want to lift restrictions. The county voted to move to reopen on May 29 after a split vote of 3-2.
Soon after that decision, the vote caused an uproar on social media. Charles County's Commissioner President Reuben Collins, II, Esq said he and a few of his colleagues received threats over social media.
Some residents felt that county leaders should have made the decision to reopen the county like the rest of the state. A group of Charles County residents held a protest at the County Government Building which was later contained by authorities.
More than 100 residents held a rally on May 20 to push for the reopening of local businesses in the area. The individuals showed up to the Charles County Government Center in La Plata for the event.