Feb. 25—Harford County indoor parks and recreation facilities and government buildings will reopen to the public on March 1, the county government announced Thursday.
The county will continue offering distanced services like its drop boxes and online tools after facilities reopen Monday, spokesperson Cindy Mumby said. While walk-ins are accepted, she encouraged anyone who plans to visit county offices in-person to schedule an appointment to give adequate space to others who may also be there.
“We really do strongly encourage folks to make appointments wherever possible rather than walking in,” she said. “With distancing and trying to keep folks safe, if you can make an appointment, we can make sure there is time and space to help whoever comes in.”
Though the doors will open, Mumby encouraged county residents to use online or distanced options out of an abundance of caution. Though county offices have been closed to the public, the pandemic did not disrupt services, and government employees worked from home and in staggered shifts in-person.
Also on March 1, all outdoor parks and recreation facilities will reopen for club sports and other non-recreation council programs through the regular permitting process at each local parks and rec office. That includes reopening for indoor rec-council sports like the All County Parks and Recreation gymnastics program — the only of 42 Maryland USA Gymnastics member clubs in the women’s competitive program that couldn’t practice at its home gym because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Masking and distancing precautions will be maintained, Mumby said, because if cases of the coronavirus spike, facilities could be closed down again.
“We are doing this cautiously; we do not want to have to turn back,” she said.
In November, the county closed parks and recreation facilities amid a worrying spike in COVID-19 metrics.
“Harford County’s COVID-19 metrics have improved after the winter surge, allowing us to take these next steps in our plan to safely reopen county facilities,” County Executive Barry Glassman said. “Moving forward we still have to keep our guard up by following precautions to limit community spread. I want to thank our county employees who have not missed a beat as they continue to serve our citizens throughout the pandemic.”
The county’s seven-day new case rate reported Thursday was 13.14 cases per 100,000, a significant drop from spikes in November and January, when that figure was was in the 40s.
The county released a four-tiered plan for reopening recreation facilities in late January. The final condition for reopening indoor recreation council programs was that every county employee had to have an opportunity to get the vaccine. Between then and now, Mumby said, the 1B classification was expanded to include government workers, allowing indoor parks and recreation facilities to reopen by the March 1 target date.
The county is encouraging its employees to register for the vaccine in multiple places as the health department can only reserve about 21 vaccines a week for the county’s approximately 1,000 employees, Mumby said. County leaders have consistently advocated for larger vaccine shipments, but the health department’s supply of the vaccines has flattened at 1,400 a week.
Harford LINK, the county’s bus service, will also return to full service for fixed routes.
All senior centers in Maryland, including Harford County, remain closed by order of the governor.