Anne Arundel County, Maryland, Executive Steuart Pittman urged residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19 during a briefing Tuesday.
County employees have until Sept. 13 to get vaccinated. Those who are not vaccinated will need to provide their supervisors with a negative test on a weekly basis to report to work.
Pittman’s remarks came just a day after the Pfizer vaccine earned full approval by U.S. regulators.
“We also encourage, particularly now that we have the full authorization … employers to mandate for their employees,” Pittman said. “And we encourage businesses to consider mandating for for folks who are coming in and using their businesses.”
Pittman said the county is looking forward to an uptick in the vaccination rate.
“We’re thrilled and proud that we have 80% now of adults vaccinated in the county, I know that was a goal of our health officer (Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman) to be there by now,” he said. “But we know that when you look at the whole population, that still has us below 70%. And we need to we need to get the rest of the way.”
Pittman added that he’s hoping COVID-19 vaccines will be approved for kids under 12 within the next month or two.
The county executive also sounded the alarm about COVID-19 variants.
“The delta variant has hit us at a time where we thought we were close to being through and life back to normal,” Pittman said. “And this is not something that we can control. It was something that we were warned about by our public health folks, that if we didn’t get vaccinated quickly enough, that these variants would continue to mutate and be created.”
He added that the delta variant is moving quickly and those most at risk of infection are the unvaccinated.
Hospitalizations have also jumped.
“We’re up to about 50 hospitalized COVID patients in the county,” Pittman said. “We had gotten down to around 10 during the earlier part of the summer, and those are unvaccinated people. There are some who were vaccinated, but all of those, I’m told, have other underlying conditions that … made the virus much more serious for them.”
“So please, please, please get vaccinated.”
Appointments to get vaccinated can be made online.
Pittman said he “wholeheartedly” supports having a mask mandate for schools. Superintendent George Arlotto has said there will be one.
The Anne Arundel County Board of Education scheduled a Sept. 1 vote on whether masks should be optional for students and staff members.
“I would encourage all the members of the school board to support the superintendent’s decision here,” Pittman said, adding that Centers for Disease Control and Prevention contact tracing guidelines and quarantine guidelines say that when kids are masked, even if they’re 3 to 6 feet from each other and one tests positive, they don’t need to quarantine.
“So the reason that so many classrooms and even schools are being closed in places around the country is that those kids are not masked,” Pittman said. “And they do not have mask requirements. So if we want to keep our kids in class and keep our schools open, that’s the reason that we have the mask requirement.”
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