COVID-19 cases ‘holding steady’ in Anne Arundel, while school bus driver shortage remains a ‘crisis’

Leaders in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, addressed the community Tuesday about COVID-19 numbers and other matters, including the police department’s body worn camera program and the struggle to hire and retain school bus drivers.

County Executive Steuart Pittman said the seven-day average of COVID-19 cases is still in the “17 to 20 range,” noting hospitalizations are also in excess of 50 for county hospitals, which recently forced doctors to delay a small number of elective surgeries.

“I keep hoping that each week I’ll be able to say that Delta has run its course and we’re dropping, but we seem to be holding steady,” said Pittman at a news conference.

County Health Officer Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman said 76% of everyone 12 years old and up who is eligible for a vaccine has received at least one dose but stresses “we’ve got to get that number higher.”

Pittman said the county currently has more than 1,000 school kids in quarantine due to COVID-19 cases, but he is pleased to hear Pfizer’s recent data showing their vaccine is safe for kids between 5 and 11 years old.

“We’re prepared to start the vaccination of those kids,” said Pittman, who is also happy that the public school system will now require either vaccinations or weekly testing of teachers and student-athletes by Nov. 22.

“I’m looking forward to the day when federal, state government or school board makes the decision that vaccines will be mandated for all kids to come to school,” says Pittman.

Pittman also addressed the ongoing problem of hiring and retaining school bus drivers.

The county executive said it’s especially bad for the Annapolis region, saying “it continues to be a crisis.”

“We’ll be meeting with the contractors themselves asking what will it take to give them the incentives,” said Pittman. “Any bonuses that they need to be able to hire the drivers they need — we’re working with the state on that.”

To alleviate the strain, Pittman said county buses in the Annapolis area have been offering free rides for some students.

“Ridership is increasing, and that’s a positive sign,” says Pittman.

Pittman also commended the police department’s recent announcement that all officers have now been trained and equipped with body-worn cameras.

The department set a Sept. 15 deadline to complete training and fit all officers with a camera saying he has no doubt it’s already building trust between communities and police.

“I’ve heard from a lot of officers [who say] now that they have them that they understand the benefits,” said Pittman. “It’s working very well.”

Ken Duffy

Ken Duffy is a reporter and anchor at WTOP with more than 20 years of experience. He has reported from major events like the 2016 Democratic and Republican National Conventions, 2016 Election Night at Trump Headquarters in Midtown Manhattan and the 2007 Super Bowl in Miami.

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