As the novel coronavirus continues to spread in the region, Prince George’s County officials say lack of widespread testing remains the biggest problem hampering the county’s response to the pandemic.
Prince George’s County Councilor Deni Taveras said the lack of widespread testing makes it hard to know the true extent of the outbreak locally.
“We are having some challenges getting our testing up and running and scaling up to the level we need to be to see the extent of the community transmission that is occurring,” said Taveras in an interview March 21, 2020.
A small number of drive-through or walk-up testing facilities opened late last week in Prince George’s County, but county health officials last week urged residents to not rush them without a doctor’s prescription for a coronavirus test.
County Councilor Dannielle Glaros said in a March 22, 2020, interview that a testing facility at a field hospital established by the Maryland National Guard at FedEx field is expected to come online this week.
Government officials across Prince George’s County say most residents are taking the social distancing measures seriously, though just about all contacted for this article said they witnessed gatherings that should have been prohibited over the weekend.
College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn called for more strict adherence to social distancing orders.
“I have advised residents who see this activity to call the police,” said Wojahn in an email. “I think we do need more police enforcement of the Governor’s order. I am concerned that it might not have come soon enough.”
“For the most part, residents appear to be taking the situation seriously,” said Hyattsville Mayor Candace Hollingsworth in an email. “However, living in an urbanized area, you can imagine that social distancing is difficult for many.”
Hollingsworth said the city’s parks and trails are being heavily used “which makes it even more important for residents to adhere to restrictions on gatherings and limit proximity.”
Laurel Mayor Craig Moe said most residents, by the weekend, seemed to be taking the situation seriously. Though he did note city officials dispatched police to a well-trafficked real estate open house to “remind” the realtor of the order banning gatherings.
“I think people are gearing up for the next thing the governor may do, which is a shelter-in-place order,” said Moe in an interview. “I didn’t see a lot of people out.”
Similarly in Colmar Manor, Mayor Sadara Barrow said most businesses appear to be complying with prohibitions on social gathering. But she noted the city’s retail strip and grocery stories will continue to be hubs of activity.
“I have just recently reached out to the grocery store to ask them to offer measures to limit the number of people in the store at one time,” said Barrow. “They are a great community partner, so I am sure they will work with us on that.”
“Our citizens can be seen every now and then walking – walking their children and pets, but on the most part we are adhering to social distancing and staying at home,” said North Brentwood Mayor Petrella Robinson in an email. “The challenge for all us all is staying at home and social distancing. It’s not something we are in the practice of doing, but we can do this and we must.”
Fazlul Kabir, a College Park City Councilor, said city officials received reports of weekend parties in the city’s Old Town neighborhood where many college students rent houses.
“One concern we have that we have been discussing internally “It looks like many of our neighbors are not taking this seriously,” said Kabir in an interview. “Many people are still doing large gatherings.”
Those concerns were echoed by Taveras, who said she has witnessed in Langley Park noncompliance with orders banning gatherings of 10 or more.
Bowie City Councilor Adrian Boafo, whose council ward includes the Bowie Town Center retail hub, also said his constituents could do a better job social distancing.
“We really need social distancing. Yes you can go out on a walk in the park, but try to limit the socializing you do,” said Boafo. “You need to understand you may not have symptoms, but you could be spreading the disease.”
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