Citing continuing high COVID-19 case rates and hospitalization numbers, County Executive Steuart Pittman signed a new executive order today, reinforcing the restrictions put in place in December. Executive Order 41 includes several new provisions, including permitting outdoor “garden dome” seating for restaurants, allowing limited sports practices or skills sessions, additional contact tracing provisions, and clarifying the Department of Health’s right of entry for inspections.
“When we announced restrictions in December, we promised to reassess in four weeks. Since that time, we have unfortunately seen case rates, hospitalizations, and deaths increase in our county and across the country, and discovered a faster-spreading COVID variant in our community,” Pittman said in a statement. “We must keep these restrictions in place, and each one of us must continue making the personal sacrifices that will save the lives of our neighbors. At the same time, we are assessing the impacts of restrictions and making adjustments where we can to protect jobs and quality of life without spreading the virus.
“This is the last, and most deadly, battle in our war against COVID-19, and the end is near,” he added. “Our vaccination process is underway and hospitalization projections for the late January peak are nearing a level that is manageable. Let’s come together for these final weeks and win this battle decisively.”
On January 12, Anne Arundel County reported a record seven-day average case rate of 64.9 cases per 100,000 residents. Hospitalizations due to COVID remain at or near record levels for both county hospitals. Modeling by Johns Hopkins Medicine suggests hospitalizations could peak in late January to early February. Therefore, Pittman is urging residents and businesses to keep up their resolve to weather the ongoing winter surge of COVID cases.
Executive Order #41 maintains the maximum capacity for restaurants, retail businesses and social clubs at 25 percent and religious facilities at 33 percent. Social gathering limits remain at 25 people outdoors and 10 indoors. Indoor ice rinks and roller rinks may now open at a maximum capacity of 25 percent, provided that masks are worn at all time.
The county’s winter sports season remains suspended, but the executive order allows sports practices and skills sessions, provided they are limited to a total of 25 participants outdoors or 25 percent of maximum capacity for indoor facilities, with no more than 10 people per activity at once. All coaches, participants and spectators shall wear face coverings at all times. Outdoor sports activities, fitness centers and indoor sports facilities shall maintain a log of all persons who participate in the activity or enter an indoor facility.
The executive order also expressly permits outdoor “garden domes,” which are stand-alone, clear, weatherproof domes designed to fit over and enclose a single dining table. Several local restaurants are using these structures to provide safe dining enclosures, and the executive order now brings them into compliance with state and local regulations.
Finally, Executive Order #41 also reinforces the right of county health inspectors to gain access to facilities in order to conduct their official inspection duties. Any attempt to prevent that entry or inspection is a violation of the executive order.
Daily COVID health data is available on the Department of Health’s website: www.aahealth.org/daily-covid-19-data. An updated Frequently Asked Questions document will be available shortly on the county’s Road to Recovery website.