Citing alarming and rapid increases in COVID hospitalizations and cases in the last few days, Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman announced an emergency indoor mask mandate will go into effect countywide on Friday, December 31. The mandate, which will apply to all indoor public locations, will expire on Friday, January 7 unless the county council votes for an extension.
“I had hoped we were done with government mandates in our response to COVID, but the current rate of spread and hospitalization is not sustainable, for our hospitals, our schools, our public safety agencies, or our businesses. Masks slow the spread, and it’s time to put them back on,” Pittman said.
County hospitals on Wednesday reported a record 191 COVID hospitalizations, while the county’s case rate hit 109 cases per 100,000 residents per day, also a record. The county’s test positivity rate on Wednesday reached 21% ﹘ the first time the positivity rate had eclipsed 20% since April 2020.
“Our hospitals are implementing crisis standards of care because they’re taking care of the highest number of COVID patients since the pandemic began,” said Anne Arundel County Health Officer Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman. “Masks are critical in slowing the spread of Omicron and this order will ensure that everybody is following the same steps to decrease the spread.”
The executive order, found here, mandates all public facilities ﹘ retail shops, gyms, houses of worship, restaurants (except while dining) and other locations ﹘ require patrons, guests and staff to wear face coverings while indoors. The order goes into effect at noon on December 31, and will expire at noon on January 7, pending council action.
“It takes five votes on the county council to extend this mandate beyond seven days, and we have support from at least four,” Pittman said. “I and many concerned residents will do our best to convince the others that this is a necessary step to keeping our kids in school and our businesses operating safely.”
To schedule a vaccination or booster appointment, go to www.aacounty.org/covidvax.