Citing a sharp, steady drop in the COVID case rate for both the county and state, County Executive Steuart Pittman signed Executive Order #42 today, which raises capacity limits for restaurants, retail establishments, places of worship and other businesses. Under the new order, establishments that were previously limited to 25 percent may now open at 50 percent of maximum capacity. Movie theaters, pool halls, bingo halls and other establishments that were previously closed may now open at 25 percent.
The new limits go into effect Friday, January 29, and come as the county’s COVID case rate has steadily decreased for more than two straight weeks. This is the first prolonged decrease in the case rate since mid August. The seven day average case rate today was reported as 36.4 cases per 100,000 residents, down from a peak of 64.9 on January 11. The county hospitalizations due to COVID are also down over this period, from 168 total occupied beds on January 8 to 135 reported today.
Like most of the largest Maryland counties, we implemented restrictions in November and December to protect our hospitals and save lives in the face of a deadly fall and winter coronavirus surge,” said County Executive Steuart Pittman. “As a result, we did not experience the catastrophic hospitalization scenarios or the high death rates that public health experts warned could happen.
Since January 11, we have seen a steady decline in case rates, and just recently hospitalizations have started to drop. Models suggest that both will continue their downward trend, thanks to vaccinations and warmer weather on the way. But we must keep our guard up. If we continue to wear masks and avoid gatherings, we believe that it is safe to lift most of the November and December restrictions. Our goal is to get people back to work and allow sports to resume. Doing both while also reopening our schools by March 1 are only possible if we as individuals continue to protect ourselves and our neighbors. I trust that Anne Arundel County residents will do their part.”
The executive order also allows organized sports competitions to resume, beginning on February 8. Sports practices and skills sessions are allowed up until that time, provided indoor facilities maintain a maximum capacity of 50 percent and a limit of 20 participants and coaches per activity area. The Anne Arundel County Recreation and Parks Spring sports season will begin on March 1.
List of all new or amended actions, effective Friday, January 29 at noon:
Personal Services Establishments (hair stylist, nail salons, barbers) – increased to 50% of that Establishment’s Maximum Occupancy.
Religious Facility – increased to 50% of that Religious Facility’s Maximum Occupancy. A Religious Facility may hold outdoor services for recognized religious holidays with a gathering limit of no more than 250 persons, provided the Facility requires strict adherence to the Mandatory Health and Safety Protocols.
Retail Establishment – increased to 50% capacity
Fellowship Addiction Recovery – increased to 50% capacity or 100 persons, whichever is less.
Foodservice Establishments – increased indoor dining capacity to 50% of maximum occupancy. Outdoor dining is permitted provided 50% of the tent sides remain up.
Foodservice Establishments located in food courts in indoor shopping malls may open.
Social Clubs including American Legion posts, VFW posts, and Elks Clubs – increased to 50% capacity.
Indoor social gatherings of more than 10 people remain prohibited. Outdoor social gatherings of more than 25 people remain prohibited.
“Social gatherings” does not include activities, facilities or venues that have a specific capacity limit or are ordered closed under the current executive order.
“Social gatherings” includes family gatherings, parties, cookouts, parades, festivals, conventions, fundraisers, flea markets, yard sales, and other similar gatherings.
Organized sports practice and skills sessions are permitted, provided all participants wear masks at all times. For Indoor facilities, the maximum number of participants and coaches in an activity area is 15 people. Organized sports competition may resume, beginning February 8. The county’s Recreation and Parks Spring sports season will begin on March 1.
Fitness Centers – increased to 50% capacity and activities must be held in space that provides at least 100 square feet per participant; all staff and customers must wear face coverings at all times.
Home expo shows and home product exhibitions – may open at 50% of the facility’s Maximum Occupancy.
Gaming Facilities (casinos) – increased to 50% capacity.
Bowling alleys, roller rinks and indoor ice rinks – increased to 50% capacity.
Indoor theaters (including movie theaters) and outdoor performance venues are permitted to open at 25% of maximum capacity.
Live call bingo halls and pool halls are permitted to open at 25% of maximum capacity. Electronic bingo capacity is increased to 50%, provided it is held in a space that provides at least 100 square feet per occupant.
All Outdoor Sporting Venues, including professional, semi-professional, amateur, recreational, collegiate, high school and motor sports venues, are permitted to open at 25% of maximum capacity.
Cigar and hookah lounges and adult entertainment venues are permitted to open at 25% of maximum capacity.
An updated Frequently Asked Questions document will be available soon on the county’s Road to Recovery website.