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Taking Action to Address the COVID-19 Surge

Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman imageA Message from the Health Officer
Nilesh Kalyanaraman, M.D.
July 24, 2020

Over four weeks ago Anne Arundel County started to see a slow rise in our COVID-19 cases, one that we expected given the reopenings that took place on June 12 and 19. Two weeks ago the cases started to rise much faster. Last week, hospitalizations started going up and the trend continued this week. During this time, despite significantly increased testing, our percent positivity has risen from 3.1% to 4.7% and could reach the 5% threshold if we don’t take action. The rate of spread is 1.26 and growing which means that it’s spreading faster and faster (over 1 means it’s growing).

Neighboring counties – Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Howard County and Queen Anne’s County – are seeing similar increases. Prince George’s and Montgomery County have not seen the same rise because they never reopened as much as the rest of the state.

In examining our contact tracing information to understand what’s happening in our county, we see that:

  • While there are cases across all ages, cases in people in their teens to mid 30’s are growing the fastest.
  • The number of contacts per case is growing. A month ago, it was rare to have even 10 contacts per case. Now we’re routinely seeing 10-20 contacts per case and sometimes more.
  • Spread is happening at parties, restaurants, bars, malls and shopping centers.
  • The contacts for the growing number of cases are across all ages.

The warning signs are flashing. We’ve seen this pattern unfold in other states like Florida, Texas and California. Unchecked, it leads to increased case spread, hospitalization, ICU care and death. It’s time for us to act to keep people safe, get our kids back into school, and keep businesses open. Effective at 5 p.m. on Friday, July 24, Executive Order #27, signed by County Executive Pittman, will put into place the following restrictions:

  • Restaurants and Bars
    • Bars and restaurants serving alcohol will close to indoor dining after 10 p.m.
    • Outdoor dining and pickup/delivery continue unchanged
  • Malls
    • Pedestrian areas only to access shops and not for gathering
    • Food court restaurants open only for takeout
  • Gatherings: Social Gatherings Excluding Business
    • Limited to 25 indoors
    • Limited to 50 outdoors

In addition, the Department of Health is partnering with the Liquor Board and Anne Arundel County Police Department to identify restaurants, bars and other businesses that are not enforcing masking and distancing rules. These include all employees wearing face coverings, patrons wearing face coverings unless eating or drinking, service only occurring while patrons are seated, and the separation of groups by 6 feet. Service at the bar should only occur when a patron is seated, not while standing as was normal in the past. There will be tougher penalties up to and including suspensions for businesses violating these requirements and liquor board enforcement for bars and restaurants with a liquor license. While most businesses are operating safely the actions of a few are negatively impacting all of us and putting our recovery in jeopardy.

Taking action can be hard but when confronted with the data, we are compelled to make our case and act to protect the health of our county. To learn more, here’s the Executive Order and a FAQ about the order.

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