ANNAPOLIS, Md. – In response to record numbers of COVID-19 cases reported within the last week, County Executive Steuart Pittman announced new actions today aimed at protecting public health and reducing community spread of the disease. Pittman made the announcements on a video livestream, and was joined remotely by Health Officer Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman and leading medical officials from Johns Hopkins Medicine, Anne Arundel Medical Center, and Baltimore Washington Medical Center.
COVID case numbers are surging throughout Maryland and across the nation. Earlier today, Anne Arundel County reported a new record high of 341 new COVID cases, and a record high COVID 7-day average case rate of 47.7 per 100,000 residents. New guidance from the Center for Disease Control released on December 4 urged state and local leaders to issue policies restricting indoor spaces that pose the highest risk for transmission. The restrictions announced today target locations and situations where people congregate indoors with no masks. These actions will be effective beginning Wednesday, December 16 and last for four weeks, until January 13, 2021.
“These restrictions will be a burden, and I had hoped to avoid them,” said County Executive Pittman. “But we cannot ignore the projected hospitalization numbers that will result from today’s case rates, nor can we let those numbers increase further with continued community spread. Hospital beds are a precious community asset, not only for COVID patients, but also for the rest of us who may well need them in the coming months. We will look back on this winter and ask ourselves if we could have done more to save lives. We must act now.”
The new executive order will restrict county restaurants and other food service venues to takeout service or curbside pickup only, like they were in the spring during the initial surge of COVID-19. To aid the restaurant industry and its workers, County Executive Pittman announced that establishments that received a grant as part of the $10 million Restaurant and Food Service Grant Program will receive an additional payment of up to $7,000 by year’s end. Pittman also announced that the county would waive the annual restaurant fees due in February and committed $1 million to support Feed Anne Arundel, a partnership of local restaurants, the Anne Arundel County Partnership for Children, Youth & Families, Anne Arundel Connecting Together, and the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation.
“COVID-19 has dramatically impacted local restaurants and Feed Anne Arundel is working hard to keep restaurants open, employees working, and people fed,” said Monica Alvarado, founder of Feed Anne Arundel. “This $1 million commitment from County Executive Pittman will help our restaurants, caterers, and Bed & Breakfasts continue to serve the community, while also keeping the entire supply chain – employees, vendors, farmers, watermen, delivery drivers, warehouse staff – working, too.”
“I’d like to thank all of our partners who are making these assistance programs work, including Arundel Community Development Corporation and Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation,” said County Executive Pittman.
In addition to the restaurant restrictions, retail stores, indoor gyms and fitness centers, personal services establishments (such as nail salons), and casinos will have a reduced maximum capacity of 25 percent. Religious Facilities will have maximum capacity reduced to 33 percent, however outdoor services for Christmas, Hanukkah or other recognized religious holidays are permitted with a maximum of 250 persons, provided they follow social distancing and other safety protocols.
Indoor theaters, performance venues, bingo, bowling alleys, pool halls, roller rinks, and indoor ice rinks will be closed. The county previously suspended organized athletics on county fields and facilities on November 20, and today’s announcement suspends all organized sports play or practice, which includes private schools, and school or church gyms.
“We are in the midst of a dangerous surge,” said Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman. “By slowing the spread over the next few months, more people will be alive and able to get the vaccine when it becomes available.These actions will decrease the stress on our hospitals and keep more people from getting sick.”
“COVID is caused by a respiratory virus, so, not surprisingly, it is spreading faster as we head into winter,” said Dr. Eili Klien, Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine. “The actions that we took in the summer and fall to slow spread are not as effective now that cold weather is here. As hospitals fill with COVID patients, care for all patients will suffer. We know that this virus spreads indoors when people are not wearing masks. If we don’t slow the growth in cases, needless suffering and deaths will occur. With vaccines coming soon, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. We all just need to work together to get through the next few months.”
List of all new or amended actions, effective Wednesday, December 16 at 5:00 p.m. until January 13 at 8:00 a.m.:
• Personal Services Establishments (hair stylist, nail salons, barbers) – decreased to 25% of that Establishment’s Maximum Occupancy.
• Religious Facility – decreased to 33% of that Religious Facility’s Maximum Occupancy. A Religious Facility may hold outdoor services for Christmas, Hanukkah or other recognized religious holidays with a gathering limit of no more than 250 persons, provided the Facility requires strict adherence to the Mandatory Health and Safety Protocols.
• Retail Establishment – decreased to 25% capacity.
• Fellowship Addiction Recovery – decreased to 25% capacity or 50 persons, whichever is less.
• Foodservice Establishments located in food courts in indoor shopping malls – restricted to carryout, delivery or curbside service only.
• Foodservice Establishments – restricted to carryout, delivery or curbside service only. No indoor or outdoor seating is permitted.
• Food distribution sites (food pantries, etc.) that serve or donate food to people in need at no cost may continue to operate subject to Mandatory Health and Safety Protocols.
• Social Clubs including American Legion posts, VFW posts, and Elks Clubs, restricted to 25% capacity and no food or beverages service.
• Indoor social gatherings of more than 10 people remain prohibited. Outdoor social gatherings of more than 25 people remain prohibited.
- “Social gatherings” does not include activities, facilities or venues that have a specific capacity limit or are ordered closed under this Local Executive Order No. 39.
- “Social gatherings” includes family gatherings, parties, cookouts, parades, festivals, conventions, fundraisers, flea markets, yard sales, and other gatherings that are not associated with operating or patronizing a business that sells merchandise from a location with a posted Maximum Occupancy.
• All organized sports play or practice is suspended, including private schools, and school or church gyms.
• Fitness Centers are restricted to 25% capacity and may not conduct classes or group fitness activities; all staff and customers must wear face coverings at all times.
• Gaming Facilities (casinos) are restricted to 25% capacity and no alcohol or food service except for carryout, delivery or curbside service.
• Indoor Theaters are closed.
• Indoor or outdoor venues for live performances are closed.
• Bingo, bowling alleys, pool halls, roller rinks, and indoor ice rinks shall close.
• All outdoor sporting venues including professional, semi-professional, amateur, recreational, collegiate, high school and motor sports venues are closed.
• Adult Entertainment venues are closed.
• Cigar and hookah lounges are closed but may sell retail products.
• Local annual license fees for Foodservice Establishments are waived and deemed paid for calendar year 2021.
The County Executive will sign an executive order implementing the new restrictions later today. The executive order and an updated version of the county’s Frequently Asked Questions document will be available shortly at https://www.aacounty.org/coronavirus/road-to-recovery.