Officials in Howard and Baltimore counties in Maryland say they will require masks in county buildings amid rising coronavirus cases across the state and the D.C. region attributed to the more infectious delta variant of the virus.
A mask mandate for county employees and the general public in county buildings in Baltimore County goes into effect Friday, County Executive Johnny Olszewski announced.
“This commonsense step will help limit the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health and safety of our workforce and visitors to our buildings and facilities,” Olszewski said in a statement.
In Baltimore County, the number of new cases over the last seven days per 100,000 residents reached 68 cases — a level the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention categorizes as a “substantial” level of community transmission of the virus and at which masks are recommended in indoor public settings.
A similar mask measure goes into effect in Howard County on Saturday.
“Howard County’s increasing case rates are concerning, and it is important for residents to be aware of the current risks, especially if they are still unvaccinated,” County Executive Calvin Ball said Thursday in a statement. “Masks continue to be an effective tool in reducing the spread of COVID-19, and we want to ensure our employees and public visitors are safe when in our buildings. ”
The mask rules apply to county facilities and apply to employees and members of the public when they enter buildings, throughout common areas and in meetings with other employees or members of the public.
Howard County has seen a slower rise in new coronavirus cases compared to other parts of Maryland, but earlier this week the CDC moved the county to a “substantial” level of virus transmission.
“Requiring masks is a necessary precaution to keep our employees and public safe,” said Chief Administrative Officer Lonnie Robbins in a statement. “Our County employees have worked hard to make our buildings safe and accessible to our residents and businesses who need to access services in person.”
Overall, Howard County’s positivity rate is 2.28% — the lowest in the state. However, the number of coronavirus cases has been on the rise in the county. The seven-day average of new daily cases is just under nine new cases per 100,000 residents; the total of new cases in the past seven days reached 53 cases per 100,000.
Howard County’s mask mandate in county buildings is similar to a measure rolled out in Anne Arundel County last week.
Officials in neighboring Montgomery County and in Prince George’s County have gone even further, mandating masks in private businesses and restaurants where the public gathers.
Earlier this week, Ball and other officials urged parents to have their eligible kids vaccinated ahead of the new school year later this month and encouraged other vaccine holdouts to get the jabs. Vaccines “remain our very best chance of beating this pandemic,” Ball said Tuesday.
Howard County boasts one of the top vaccination rates in the region, with nearly 69% of all residents fully vaccinated and 81% of residents 12 and older fully vaccinated.
The county is offering daily vaccine appointments.
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