County Executive Steuart Pittman announced today that Anne Arundel County will take several new actions to address the rising rate of COVID-19 spread. These actions are informed by Health Officer Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman’s recommendations, and target situations where contact tracing indicates that there has been increased transmission of the virus. Although the county is maintaining a positivity rate below 5 percent, the positivity rate and hospitalizations have been trending up for two weeks. Furthermore, the county’s rate of infection rose from 0.80 on June 19 when the most recent restrictions were lifted to 1.25 on July 22, meaning that on average, each infected person is infecting 1.25 others - resulting in continued spread of the virus.
In response, County Executive Pittman will sign executive order #27 this afternoon, which goes into effect on Friday, July 24 at 5:00 p.m. The new order limits late evening indoor hours at bars and restaurants, re-establishes gathering limits for indoor and outdoor social events, closes seating areas in mall food courts, and establishes new, stricter penalties for violations. County Executive Pittman decided to take these actions after consultation with Dr. Kalyanaraman and other health officials, and after meeting with his recovery work group and members of the county’s chambers of commerce to get feedback.
“Rates of infection are a direct function of our behavior,” said County Executive Pittman. “Two weeks after the last reopenings, our rates surged to a level that could eventually require a devastating shutdown of economic and personal activity.
“We must keep Anne Arundel open, so we must respond immediately to our data. This is a targeted approach driven by our contact tracing review, and our need to protect the working people of this county from further economic stress. Please, help us get our people back to work and our students back in classrooms by wearing your mask and physical distancing.”
In addition to the new actions in the executive order, Dr. Kalyanaraman announced a new enforcement program. In partnership with the liquor board, there will be increased enforcement and penalties for restaurants, bars and clubs that fail to adhere to current mask and distancing requirements.
“We’re all in this together,” said Dr. Kalyanaraman. “Each of us is responsible to do the right thing, which includes using a mask, distancing and hand washing. Today’s actions are necessary because not everybody is practicing these behaviors, and we are seeing increased cases and hospitalizations. Our goal is to open schools and following these new guidelines is a key part of making that happen in the fall.”
The details of the executive order are as follows:
Requires restaurants, bars and other food service establishments to cease indoor operations by 10:00 p.m.
Prohibits indoor social gatherings of more than 25 people and outdoor social gatherings of more than 50 people.
“Social gatherings” include, but are not limited to, parties, cookouts, concerts or performances, parades, festivals, conventions, fundraisers, and other gatherings that are not associated with operating or patronizing a business.
“Social gatherings” do not include gatherings at retail stores, offices, restaurants, fraternal social clubs, youth sports, or casinos, or gatherings for religious or spiritual purposes on the premises of a religious or spiritual facility.
Requires that food service establishments at food courts in indoor shopping malls shall be limited to carry-out service only. Dining at tables or other spaces in indoor food courts is prohibited. Pedestrian areas in indoor shopping malls may remain open to provide access to retail stores and food service establishments.
Establishes a new fine structure for establishments that do not comply, starting with $500 for the first offense, and reinforces the Health Officer’s ability to impose a suspension or closure.
Executive Order #27 will be available on the county website this afternoon.
In addition, Anne Arundel County Recreation and Parks announced that the Arundel Olympic Swim Center in Annapolis and the North Arundel Aquatic Center in Glen Burnie, both currently closed due to positive COVID-19 tests among patrons or staff, will remain closed until further notice.
The Anne Arundel County Department of Health maintains a reopening dashboard to track public health measures that influence policy decisions. Other resources and information are available on the county’s road to recovery webpage.