In response to record numbers of COVID-19 cases reported within the last week, County Executive Steuart Pittman announced new actions today aimed at protecting public health and reducing community spread of the disease. Pittman made the announcements on a video livestream, and was joined remotely by Health Officer Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman and leading medical officials from Johns Hopkins Medicine, Anne Arundel Medical Center and Baltimore Washington Medical Center.
COVID case numbers are surging throughout Maryland and across the nation. Earlier today, Anne Arundel County reported a new record high of 341 new COVID cases, and a record high COVID seven-day average case rate of 47.7 per 100,000 residents. New guidance from the Centers for Disease Control released on December 4 urged state and local leaders to issue policies restricting indoor spaces that pose the highest risk for transmission. The restrictions announced today target locations and situations where people congregate indoors with no masks. These actions will be effective beginning Wednesday, December 16, and last for four weeks, until January 13, 2021.
“These restrictions will be a burden, and I had hoped to avoid them,” Pittman said. “But we cannot ignore the projected hospitalization numbers that will result from today’s case rates, nor can we let those numbers increase further with continued community spread. Hospital beds are a precious community asset, not only for COVID patients, but also for the rest of us who may well need them in the coming months. We will look back on this winter and ask ourselves if we could have done more to save lives. We must act now.”
The new executive order will restrict county restaurants and other food service venues to takeout service or curbside pickup only, like they were in the spring during the initial surge of COVID-19. To aid the restaurant industry and its workers, Pittman announced that establishments that received a grant as part of the $10 million Restaurant and Food Service Grant Program will receive an additional payment of up to $7,000 by year’s end. Pittman also announced that the county would waive the annual restaurant fees due in February, and he committed $1 million to support Feed Anne Arundel, a partnership of local restaurants; the Anne Arundel County Partnership for Children, Youth & Families; Anne Arundel Connecting Together; and the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation.
“COVID-19 has dramatically impacted local restaurants and Feed Anne Arundel is working hard to keep restaurants open, employees working, and people fed,” said Monica Alvarado, founder of Feed Anne Arundel. “This $1 million commitment from County Executive Pittman will help our restaurants, caterers, and bed & breakfasts continue to serve the community, while also keeping the entire supply chain - employees, vendors, farmers, watermen, delivery drivers, warehouse staff - working, too.”
In addition to the restaurant restrictions, retail stores, indoor gyms and fitness centers, personal services establishments (such as nail salons) and casinos will have a reduced maximum capacity of 25 percent. Religious facilities will have maximum capacity reduced to 33 percent, however, outdoor services for Christmas, Hanukkah or other recognized religious holidays are permitted with a maximum of 250 persons, provided they follow social distancing and other safety protocols.
Indoor theaters, performance venues, bingo, bowling alleys, pool halls, roller rinks, and indoor ice rinks will be closed. The county previously suspended organized athletics on county fields and facilities on November 20, and today’s announcement suspends all organized sports play or practice, which includes private schools, and school or church gyms.
“We are in the midst of a dangerous surge,” Kalyanaraman said. “By slowing the spread over the next few months, more people will be alive and able to get the vaccine when it becomes available. These actions will decrease the stress on our hospitals and keep more people from getting sick.”
These are the new or amended actions, effective Wednesday, December 16, at 5:00pm until January 13 at 8:00am:
The county executive will sign an executive order implementing the new restrictions later today. The executive order and an updated version of the county’s Frequently Asked Questions document will be available at www.aacounty.org/coronavirus/road-to-recovery.