Rockville restaurants already struggling through the coronavirus pandemic are facing another financial blow, as Covid-19 cases spike in Montgomery County ahead of what is expected to be a difficult winter. Many mom-and-pop restaurants, and even operators of chain businesses, have said they are struggling to turn a profit while surviving month-to-month with various government assistance programs. On Tuesday, the Montgomery County Council unanimously approved tougher Covid-19 restrictions, including the reduction of restaurant capacity to 25% effective yesterday at 5:00 PM.
The new restrictions limit gatherings to 25 people or less. 25% capacity restrictions will also apply to houses of worship, retail stores, museums and galleries, and gyms. Restaurants will now be required to maintain a record of all indoor and outdoor patrons, for at least 30 days, to assist with contact tracing. Information collected must include date, time, name of each patron and contact information.
Loss of indoor dining capacity comes just as plummeting temperatures make outdoor dining much less practical. Whether heaters and tents will in any way reduce that impact will be determined for the first time this winter. We are in uncharted waters in an industry that already has razor-thin profit margins in high-rent, high-tax, high-operating-cost, liquor-monopoly-controlled Montgomery County.
At the same time, there is no doubt the pandemic is taking a turn for the worse as winter approaches, as many had predicted. Maryland hospital beds are currently filled at a higher rate than during the summer coronavirus spike. All County hospitals were under Blue Alert Monday night, and at least one went to a full Red Alert Tuesday, forcing rerouting of emergency patients who require electrocardiogram-monitored beds. Yesterday, Covid-related hospitalizations in America reached a record high.