Anne Arundel health officials issue public safety order to require face masks indoors – WBAL TV Baltimore

The Anne Arundel County Department of Health late Friday afternoon issued a public safety order to require face coverings in indoor public areas and outdoors where distancing isn’t feasible.|| COVID-19 updates | Maryland’s latest numbers | Get tested | Vaccine Info ||The new public health order takes effect immediately and requires all individuals over age 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 Jan. 31.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. | PDF: Read the public safety orderIndividuals 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.Increasing COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, deaths cited for health orderAnne Arundel County Health Officer Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman cited “rapidly increasing COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths amid the extremely contagious omicron variant.””Masks and masking requirements have been demonstrated to be effective at decreasing COVID transmission and hospitalizations,” Kalyanaraman said in a statement released shortly after 4:30 p.m. “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 latest surge in COVID-19 numbers is overwhelming hospitals. Both of Anne Arundel County’s medical centers are in crisis mode. According to the Anne Arundel County Department of Health, hospitals, as well as medical groups, requested the extension of the face mask mandate.Earlier this week, Gov. Larry Hogan declared a 30-day state of emergency and catastrophic health emergency for COVID-19 and its impact on the state’s hospitals.In Anne Arundel County, Luminis Health Anne Arundel Medical Center and Baltimore Washington Medical Center both declared a crisis standard of care. Since Wednesday, COVID-19 hospitalizations have increased from 53 to 236, a 345% increase, health officials said.Health order follows County Council’s decision not to extend previous mask mandateThe public safety order comes after the Anne Arundel County Council voted earlier Friday afternoon to end the county executive’s indoor mask mandate and emergency order. County Executive Steuart Pittman announced an emergency indoor mask mandate that took effect a week ago, citing spikes in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.”Dr. Kalyanaraman’s decision to issue this order is a necessary step to protect the health and safety of all Anne Arundel County residents,” Pittman said in a statement. “Wear the damn masks. Get vaccinated and boosted. Take these steps because they protect you and the people around you — the doctors and nurses overwhelmed by hospitalizations, the small business owner worried about customers staying away because of COVID transmission, the parents trying to protect their children from this deadly disease.”The previous mandate, which applied to all indoor public locations, expired at noon Friday after the County Council voted 4-3 along party lines. The extension needed five votes to pass.”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,” Councilwoman Amanda Fiedler said in a statement sent by the Anne Arundel County Council Republican Caucus.”I encourage those who feel safer wearing a mask to do so and for business owners to do what is best for their employees and customers,” Councilwoman Jessica Haire said in the statement. “We are no longer in the beginning stages of this pandemic, our overall vaccination rate is nearly 70%, and, at this point, we need to believe in the residents of our county to make the best health decisions for themselves. Now is the time to focus on increased testing and support for hospital staff.”Anne Arundel County Attorney Gregory Swain said the health officer has the authority to issue the public safety order.“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,” he said.Residents mixed over County Council’s voteWearing a mask will now be a personal choice in Anne Arundel County, which is how some residents say it should be.”People who are wearing the masks are listening to the government. The Democrats, who I hate, and they ought to retire already, because they are all too old,” said Brenda Neal, of Anne Arundel County.”I agree with it because even if people are vaccinated, you still catch it. So, I would agree with it,” said Fernard Jackson, of Anne Arundel County.”It’s not a big deal for me. I don’t think it’s a big deal at all. I think we should mask up,” said Noah Bunch, of Anne Arundel County.”I think it should be up to each individual business, and they should make their own decisions whether or not to force people to wear a mask,” said Robert Harting, of Anne Arundel County.The council heard several hours of public testimony.”If it is getting out of control, we need to wear them a little bit again,” said Rebecca Newcomb, of Anne Arundel County. “If we get it under control and don’t have to, then we don’t have to. We just have to do what we have to do to keep everyone safe.”Council members peppered the county’s health officer with questions. They wanted to know if the agency explored vitamin therapies as an alternative to masks.Some council members asked why not put more money into expanding test sites at recreation facilities, and they wanted to know why the county simply can’t add more staff at testing sites. Health officials cited a worker shortage and said they are expanding testing and have ordered more take-home tests.Shortly after the face mask vote, the County Council voted 4-3 in opposition to extending the Pittman’s emergency order. This measure also needed five votes to pass.The council then adjourned. The next meeting will be Jan. 18 in chambers.

The Anne Arundel County Department of Health late Friday afternoon issued a public safety order to require face coverings in indoor public areas and outdoors where distancing isn’t feasible.

|| COVID-19 updates | Maryland’s latest numbers | Get tested | Vaccine Info ||

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The new public health order takes effect immediately and requires all individuals over age 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 Jan. 31.

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.

| PDF: Read the public safety order

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.

Increasing COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, deaths cited for health order

Anne Arundel County Health Officer Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman cited “rapidly increasing COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths amid the extremely contagious omicron variant.”

“Masks and masking requirements have been demonstrated to be effective at decreasing COVID transmission and hospitalizations,” Kalyanaraman said in a statement released shortly after 4:30 p.m. “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 latest surge in COVID-19 numbers is overwhelming hospitals. Both of Anne Arundel County’s medical centers are in crisis mode. According to the Anne Arundel County Department of Health, hospitals, as well as medical groups, requested the extension of the face mask mandate.

Earlier this week, Gov. Larry Hogan declared a 30-day state of emergency and catastrophic health emergency for COVID-19 and its impact on the state’s hospitals.

In Anne Arundel County, Luminis Health Anne Arundel Medical Center and Baltimore Washington Medical Center both declared a crisis standard of care. Since Wednesday, COVID-19 hospitalizations have increased from 53 to 236, a 345% increase, health officials said.

Health order follows County Council’s decision not to extend previous mask mandate

The public safety order comes after the Anne Arundel County Council voted earlier Friday afternoon to end the county executive’s indoor mask mandate and emergency order. County Executive Steuart Pittman announced an emergency indoor mask mandate that took effect a week ago, citing spikes in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

“Dr. Kalyanaraman’s decision to issue this order is a necessary step to protect the health and safety of all Anne Arundel County residents,” Pittman said in a statement. “Wear the damn masks. Get vaccinated and boosted. Take these steps because they protect you and the people around you — the doctors and nurses overwhelmed by hospitalizations, the small business owner worried about customers staying away because of COVID transmission, the parents trying to protect their children from this deadly disease.”

The previous mandate, which applied to all indoor public locations, expired at noon Friday after the County Council voted 4-3 along party lines. The extension needed five votes to pass.

“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,” Councilwoman Amanda Fiedler said in a statement sent by the Anne Arundel County Council Republican Caucus.

“I encourage those who feel safer wearing a mask to do so and for business owners to do what is best for their employees and customers,” Councilwoman Jessica Haire said in the statement. “We are no longer in the beginning stages of this pandemic, our overall vaccination rate is nearly 70%, and, at this point, we need to believe in the residents of our county to make the best health decisions for themselves. Now is the time to focus on increased testing and support for hospital staff.”

Anne Arundel County Attorney Gregory Swain said the health officer has the authority to issue the public safety order.

“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,” he said.

Residents mixed over County Council’s vote

Wearing a mask will now be a personal choice in Anne Arundel County, which is how some residents say it should be.

“People who are wearing the masks are listening to the government. The Democrats, who I hate, and they ought to retire already, because they are all too old,” said Brenda Neal, of Anne Arundel County.

“I agree with it because even if people are vaccinated, you still catch it. So, I would agree with it,” said Fernard Jackson, of Anne Arundel County.

“It’s not a big deal for me. I don’t think it’s a big deal at all. I think we should mask up,” said Noah Bunch, of Anne Arundel County.

“I think it should be up to each individual business, and they should make their own decisions whether or not to force people to wear a mask,” said Robert Harting, of Anne Arundel County.

The council heard several hours of public testimony.

“If it is getting out of control, we need to wear them a little bit again,” said Rebecca Newcomb, of Anne Arundel County. “If we get it under control and don’t have to, then we don’t have to. We just have to do what we have to do to keep everyone safe.”

Council members peppered the county’s health officer with questions. They wanted to know if the agency explored vitamin therapies as an alternative to masks.

Some council members asked why not put more money into expanding test sites at recreation facilities, and they wanted to know why the county simply can’t add more staff at testing sites. Health officials cited a worker shortage and said they are expanding testing and have ordered more take-home tests.

Shortly after the face mask vote, the County Council voted 4-3 in opposition to extending the Pittman’s emergency order. This measure also needed five votes to pass.

The council then adjourned. The next meeting will be Jan. 18 in chambers.

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