Prince George’s County will remain in Phase Two of Maryland’s COVID-19 reopening plan after an increase in both the positivity rate and the number of cases over the past weeks, County Executive Angela Alsobrooks announced at a press conference Thursday.

Last week, the county saw the positivity rate increase from 3.9 percent to 4.3 percent, Alsobrooks said. The infection rate has also increased to 1.07 percent as of Oct. 20, which means that on average, a resident that has tested positive has spread the virus to one other person, said Dr. Ernest Carter, county health officer.

Prince George’s County has been the jurisdiction in Maryland hit the hardest by COVID-19, with more than 33,000 confirmed cases since March, 4,000 hospitalizations and 850 deaths, Alsobrooks said.

The county remains in the medium risk category for COVID-19 transmission based on its metrics, meaning the risk for further spread is increasing, Carter said. He expressed his concern about the data the county is now seeing, as the weather gets colder and flu season approaches.

[Prince George’s County will stay in Phase Two of reopening plan after positivity rate increase]

An area of concern for the county is Halloween and Thanksgiving, Alsobrooks said. She urged residents to avoid large gatherings with people who do not live in the same household, as Carter cited those events as the “leading contributor” for COVID-19 spread in the county, based on contact tracing.

“It’s just painfully clear that what is usually marked as a time of joy, we do not want to be marked with tragedy,” Alsobrooks said.

During the press conference, the county executive also said Prince George’s County’s early voting turnout was one of the highest in the state, with 22,878 people showing up to vote on the first day.

Alsobrooks also urged voters with absentee ballots to use the ballot drop boxes as the election approaches, noting that voters who wan to mail their ballot must go into the post office to have their envelope postmarked.

The county executive reminded residents that unlike in other elections, they will be able to use any of the 41 voting centers in the county. Bus services will be extended until 9 p.m. on election day, she added. 

She said bus services will continue to be free for all riders, which will help voters who rely on public transportation get to the polls. 

“We just continue to offer our thoughts and prayers for those who have lost loved ones — and I have to say, especially during this holiday season, we’re going to be ever vigilant,” Alsobrooks said.