ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY HEALTH OFFICER DR. KALYANARAMAN ISSUES PUBLIC SAFETY ORDER CONTINUING FACE COVERING REQUIREMENT UNTIL JANUARY 31, 2022
Annapolis, Md (Jan. 7, 2022) – Today, as Anne Arundel County continues to experience rapidly increasing COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths amid the extremely contagious omicron variant, Anne Arundel County Health Officer Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman declared a Public Safety Order pursuant to state law to require face coverings in indoor public areas and outdoor public settings where distancing isn’t feasible.
“Masks and masking requirements have been demonstrated to be effective at decreasing COVID transmission and hospitalizations,” Health Officer Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman said. “When the collective impact of individual decisions ripples out, we have to take collective action. That’s why a time limited mask requirement is essential in decreasing the crushing burden we are placing on our hospitals.”
The issuance of a public safety order comes after the Anne Arundel County Council declined to extend the County Executive’s Executive Order requiring face coverings. That order, issued on Dec. 31, 2021, expired at noon today.
“Dr. Kalyanaraman’s decision to issue this order is a necessary step to protect the health and safety of all Anne Arundel County residents,” County Executive Steuart Pittman said. “Wear the damn masks. Get vaccinated and boosted. Take these steps because they protect you and the people around you – the doctors and nurses overwhelmed by hospitalizations, the small business owner worried about customers staying away because of COVID transmission, the parents trying to protect their children from this deadly disease.”
This week Governor Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency and catastrophic health emergency that will last for 30 days in response to the increasing number of hospitalizations in the state as the number of those hospitalized for COVID increased to over 3,000, over 50% higher than the previous high of 1952. Anne Arundel Medical Center has declared a crisis standard of care. Baltimore Washington Medical Center has declared a crisis standard of care. Since December 5, hospitalizations for COVID have increased from 53 to 236, a 345% increase.
The new public health order will take effect immediately and require all individuals over the age of two to wear face coverings in indoor public spaces and outdoor public spaces where social distancing is not possible in Anne Arundel County. The order expires on January 31, 2022.
“The Order for Public Safety issued today by Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman, the County Health Officer, is issued pursuant to the authority granted to the County Health Officer by the Health- General Article of the State Code and the Code of Maryland Regulations,” County Attorney Gregory J. Swain said. “This Order does not require either a State or local state of emergency and is part of the Health Officer’s statutory and regulatory authority under State law to address infectious and contagious diseases in the County.”
The order includes, but is not limited to: retail establishments, recreational establishments, houses of worship, and other locations open to the public.
Individuals will not be required to wear a mask if:
- Eating or drinking while seated at food service establishments. Face coverings are still required when otherwise moving in or about a restaurant or bar premises.
- A face covering cannot be worn due to a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability.
- Wearing a face covering would subject the person to an unsafe working condition.
- A person is swimming or engaging in other physical activities where the use of a face covering is likely to pose a bona fide safety risk.
- Wearing a face covering would make it impossible to receive certain services, including dental care, shaving, and facial treatments.
The order is in line with a recommendation made to Maryland Secretary of Health Dennis Schrader in a joint letter signed by the Maryland Hospital Association, MedChi, The Maryland State Medical Society, The League of Life & Health Insurers of Maryland, Inc., Health Facilities Association of Maryland and LifeSpan Network on Dec. 24, 2021:
“In light of the current surge in cases, we believe it is time to consider changing the policy on masking… The science we have on masking has been hard earned by human lives. Given the current numbers, it seems wise to consider taking urgent action.”
All residents are encouraged to continue taking precautions to reduce the spread of COVID-19. To get a COVID-19 vaccine or booster shot, please visit www.aahealth.org/covidvax or by contacting your local urgent care, pharmacy, or your primary care provider.