The Anne Arundel County mask mandate was ended by the county council on January 7, but Anne Arundel's health officer, Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman, issued a Public Safety Order pursuant to state law to revive the mandate roughly two hours after the meeting ended.
After a six and a half hour meeting, Bill 6-22 was defeated by the Anne Arundel County Council. Because the bill was an emergency measure, five votes were required for it to pass, and it failed despite a 4-3 vote. Had it passed, County Executive Steuart Pittman's seven-day mask mandate would have been extended as an emergency measure.
The council also voted against Bill 7-22 to extend the civil emergency until January 31.
Councilmembers Amanda Fiedler, Nathan Volke and Jessica Haire voted against both bills. Voting in favor were councilmembers Lisa Rodvien, Sarah Lacey, Allison Pickard and Andrew Pruski.
“COVID remains a public health concern,” Fiedler said in a statement. “Residents have learned best practices for preventing serious illness, and hospitalizations, including medical grade masks and vaccinations. Focusing on mask mandates instead of increased testing availability and other important resources that would immediately support our health care system only prolongs the mental health impacts this pandemic has created in the past two years.”
Citing rapidly increasing COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths amid the extremely contagious omicron variant, Kalyanaraman then issued the public safety order on behalf of the county health department.
“Masks and masking requirements have been demonstrated to be effective at decreasing COVID transmission and hospitalizations,” Kalyanaraman said. “When the collective impact of individual decisions ripples out, we have to take collective action. That’s why a time-limited mask requirement is essential in decreasing the crushing burden we are placing on our hospitals.”
The new public health order will take effect immediately and require all individuals over the age of 2 to wear face coverings in indoor public spaces and outdoor public spaces where social distancing is not possible in Anne Arundel County. The order expires on January 31, 2022.
"The Order for Public Safety issued today by Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman, the county health officer, is issued pursuant to the authority granted to the county health officer by the Health- General article of the state code and the code of Maryland regulations,” county attorney Gregory Swain said. “This order does not require either a state or local state of emergency and is part of the health officer's statutory and regulatory authority under state law to address infectious and contagious diseases in the county."
The order includes but is not limited to retail establishments, recreational establishments, houses of worship, and at any location or area where members of the public are generally permitted.
Individuals will not be required to wear a mask if:
Eating or drinking while seated at food service establishments. Face coverings are still required when otherwise moving in or about a restaurant or bar premises.
A face covering cannot be worn due to a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability.
Wearing a face covering would subject the person to an unsafe working condition.
A person is swimming or engaging in other physical activities where the use of a face covering is likely to pose a bona fide safety risk.
Wearing a face covering would make it impossible to receive certain services, including dental care, shaving, and facial treatments.
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