The district’s health department voted 7: 1 on Tuesday evening to relax COVID-19 restrictions for some companies and reach limits.

The new guidelines lift the 25 percent capacity limit for fitness centers and 50 percent for wedding venues and allow public gatherings of more than 100 people, but only if someone is designated to enforce mask wearing and social distancing requirements. Organizers or representatives of the events must provide details to the district health department at least one week in advance.

The Board of Health consists of County Executive Jan Gardner (D) and the County Council, with County Health Officer Dr. Barbara Brookmyer acts as secretary and executive officer.

The gathering requirements do not apply to reunions, cookouts, or similar events on private property, the report said.

Some, including council members Jerry Donald (D), Kai Hagen (D) and Jessica Fitzwater (D), said they viewed the new order as perhaps too big a step. But a member of the public called to support the regulation.

Donald, the only no, said he hoped he would be wrong, but said it was a little early to relax the restrictions.

Councilor Steve McKay (R) noted that the health department could meet again and again to vote on new restrictions, and Gardner himself could propose executive ordinances for the county.

Brookmyer said she was cautiously optimistic about the lifting of restrictions based on current hospital stays and case rates.

Keegan-Ayer said the board’s work shows that councilors and Gardner are taking the pandemic “very, very seriously.” She and Hagen said they had to trust Brookmyer as the group’s scientific experts.

The new regulations begin on March 26th at 5:00 p.m. Residents and businesses must continue to adhere to social distancing, masking, and other regulations set out in Governor Larry Hogan’s (R) executive orders.

Follow Steve Bohnel on Twitter: @Steve_Bohnel

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