Anne Arundel County, Maryland, will have new COVID-19 restrictions starting Friday afternoon in response to a recent surge in key health metrics.
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 Steuart Pittman announced Thursday.
He signed the executive order Thursday afternoon, which will go into effect 5 p.m. Friday. Read the full order here.
“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,” Pittman’s office said in a release.
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Though Anne Arundel County is maintaining a positivity rate below 5%, Pittman said that rate and hospitalizations have been trending upward for two weeks. The rate of infection has also increased since June 19, when the most recent restrictions were lifted.
“Two weeks after the last reopenings, our rates surged to a level that could eventually require a devastating shutdown of economic and personal activity,” Pittman said.
He urged residents to keep wearing face masks and practice physical distancing in order to “keep Anne Arundel open.”
Asked if the county is trending back to Phase One or if stay-at-home restrictions could be implemented, Pittman said, “We don’t expect to, but if things get bad enough we’ll have to.”
The new enforcement program will aim for increased scrutiny and penalties for restaurants, bars and clubs that aren’t following current mask and distancing rules.
“We’ll be implementing a new fine structure for establishments that don’t comply with this and we’ll be stepping up our enforcement,” Health Officer Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman said.
“We operated essentially on the honor system. What happens is some people take advantage of it. One of the challenges we have with bars and restaurants is that it’s complaint based. Frankly what we’re seeing is there are some establishments where nobody’s complaining because they’re going there specifically to have a good time and not follow the rules, and the rest of us pay for that.”
Kalyanaraman said that while cases in the county are in all age groups, they’re growing fastest in those who are in their teens to mid-30s.
“There’s a consistent pattern in where that teens to mid-30s group are going: parties, malls, bars, restaurants, and shopping centers. Areas where it’s not always easy to who your contact is,” he said.
Here’s what the new order entails:
- Indoor operations for restaurants, bars and other food service establishments need to stop by 10 p.m. daily.
- Indoor social gatherings can’t consist of more than 25 people, and outdoor social gatherings can’t consist of more than 50 people.
- Food businesses at food courts in indoor shopping malls are limited to carry-out service only. Dining at tables or other spaces in indoor food courts won’t be allowed.
- Businesses that don’t comply will be fined, starting with $500 for a first offense. The health officer has the power to impose a suspension or closure.
Also, the county’s Recreation and Parks Department said the Arundel Olympic Swim Center in Annapolis and the North Arundel Aquatic Center in Glen Burnie will remain closed after positive COVID-19 tests among patrons or staff.
Mask use ordered, indoor dining stopped in Baltimore
Anyone over 2 years old in Baltimore will be required to wear a face covering in public starting Friday, the same day that indoor dining will be suspended again in an effort to stop a recent spike in coronavirus cases.
The measures are scheduled to go into effect at 5 p.m. and will last at least two weeks.
Baltimore City’s health department will monitor case counts, deaths and other metrics to determine whether to extend the measures beyond that period. Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa said the decision to impose the measures is rooted in current data.
WTOP’s John Domen and The Associated Press contributed to this report.